Project

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Neural basis of individual differences in foreign language learning in school: effects of dyslexia and immigration

English title Neural basis of individual differences in foreign language learning in school: effects of dyslexia and immigration
Applicant Maurer Urs
Number 128610
Funding scheme SNSF Professorships
Research institution Psychologisches Institut Universität Zürich
Institution of higher education University of Zurich - ZH
Main discipline Psychology
Start/End 01.11.2010 - 31.10.2014
Approved amount 1'434'480.00
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All Disciplines (3)

Discipline
Psychology
Neurophysiology and Brain Research
Education and learning sciences, subject-specific education

Keywords (18)

language learning; foreign languages; dyslexia; immigration; cognitive neuroscience; electroencephalography (EEG); event-related potentials (ERP); gender; socioeconomic status (SES); child; educational neuroscience; EEG; ERP; neuroimaging; bilingualism; SES; foreign language learning; prediction

Lay Summary (English)

Lead
Lay summary
Aims: Learning to speak and read foreign languages is increasingly important in school, but the outcome varies strongly between children. Some are particularly prone to becoming struggling language learners, such as children with dyslexia or possibly boys with an immigrant background. Taking an educational neuroscience approach, this project investigates how neural mechanisms are involved in children's foreign language learning and determines the neural basis of individual differences by using EEG-based event-related brain potentials (ERPs). The central hypothesis is that foreign language learning and associated neural processes are influenced by biological disposition and previous language experience, but differently in different risk groups. The working hypotheses propose that gender and socio-economic status affect high-level language measures, whereas dyslexia affects more basic levels of language processing (1). In contrast, bilingual children are not expected to show behavioral disadvantages in foreign language learning, but to show deviant speech processing at the neural level. Finally, use of the neural measures recorded initially is expected to predict success of subsequent learning English in school, and to improve the prediction based on behavioral and background measures alone (2).Context and impact:The project bridges the traditionally disparate areas of neuroscience and education and applies a powerful longitudinal design along with well-validated behavioural and neural measures to an important social topic. The proposed research is significant because it is expected to help identify children at risk for poor outcome in foreign language learning and to contribute to the understanding of neural mechanisms involved in foreign language learning, particularly those that underlie individual differences. This may also help for developing training programs in the future that target risk groups specifically.Methods: A mobile EEG system allows recordings also in schools. Three groups of children will be studied in a longitudinal design before and after one year of English learning in 2nd grade: Non-dyslexic monolingual children, dyslexic monolingual children, and non-dyslexic bilingual children. Behavioral measures of auditory and visual language processing will be complemented with ERP indices of low and high level language processing. 1) Maurer, et al. (2007). Brain, 130, 3200-3210.2) Maurer, et al. (2009). Biological Psychiatry, 66, 341-348.
Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 21.02.2013

Responsible applicant and co-applicants

Employees

Publications

Publication
Temporal dynamics of early visual word processing–Early versus late N1 sensitivity in children and adults.
Eberhard-Moscicka A. K. Jost L. B. Fehlbaum L. V. Pfenninger S. E. Maurer U. (2016), Temporal dynamics of early visual word processing–Early versus late N1 sensitivity in children and adults., in Neuropsychologia, 91, 509-518.
Native and non-native speech sound processing and the neural mismatch response: A longitudinal study on classroom-based foreign language learning
Jost L. B. Eberhard-Moscicka A. K. Pleisch G. Heusser V. Brandeis D. Zevin J. Maurer U. (2015), Native and non-native speech sound processing and the neural mismatch response: A longitudinal study on classroom-based foreign language learning, in Neuropsychologia, 72, 94-104.
Integration of Spoken and Written Words in Beginning Readers: A Topographic ERP Study
Jost Lea B., Eberhard-Moscicka Aleksandra K., Frisch Christine, Dellwo Volker, Maurer Urs (2014), Integration of Spoken and Written Words in Beginning Readers: A Topographic ERP Study, in Brain Topography, 27(6), 786-800.
Neurocognitive mechanisms of learning to read: print tuning in beginning readers related to word-reading fluency and semantics but not phonology
Moscicka A. K. Jost L. B. Raith M. Maurer U., Neurocognitive mechanisms of learning to read: print tuning in beginning readers related to word-reading fluency and semantics but not phonology, in Developmental Science.

Collaboration

Group / person Country
Types of collaboration
University of Southern California United States of America (North America)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
The Chinese University of Hong Kong China (Asia)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication
Beijing Normal University China (Asia)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication
Chinese Academy of Sciences China (Asia)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication

Scientific events

Active participation

Title Type of contribution Title of article or contribution Date Place Persons involved
Invited lecture. Psycholinguistics / University of Geneva Individual talk Neural mechanisms of orthographic processing: a cross-linguistic perspective 10.11.2014 Geneva, Switzerland Maurer Urs;
Invited lecture. Institute of Psychology / Chinese Academy of Science Individual talk Neural mechanisms of orthographic processing in typical and dyslexic reading: Similarities and differences across languages and writing systems 09.09.2014 Beijing, China Maurer Urs;
Workshop “Reading and readability in complex writing systems”, Eikones Talk given at a conference Neural mechanisms underlying orthographic processing in normal and dyslexic reading 26.05.2014 Basel, Switzerland Maurer Urs;
First Zurich Computational Psychiatry Meeting Poster Temporal dynamics of early visual word processing: effects of foreign language learning in children and adults 19.05.2014 Zürich, Switzerland Jost Lea; Eberhard-Moscicka Aleksandra; Maurer Urs;
Invited lecture. Department of Psychology / The Chinese University of Hong Kong Individual talk Neural mechanisms underlying reading and dyslexia: how is orthography linked to phonology and semantics? 05.05.2014 Hong Kong, Hongkong Maurer Urs;
ZNZ PhD Retreat 14 Poster Temporal dynamics of early visual word processing: effects of foreign language learning in children and adults 01.05.2014 Valens, Switzerland Maurer Urs; Eberhard-Moscicka Aleksandra; Jost Lea;
ZNZ PhD Retreat Talk given at a conference Neural basis of individual differences in foreign language learning in school 01.05.2014 Valens, Switzerland Jost Lea; Eberhard-Moscicka Aleksandra; Maurer Urs;
21st annual meeting of the Cognitive Neuroscience Society Poster Temporal dynamics of early visual word processing: effects of foreign language learning in children and adults 05.04.2014 Boston, United States Minor Outlying Islands Eberhard-Moscicka Aleksandra; Jost Lea; Maurer Urs;
Invited lecture. Nationaler Kongress für Psychologiestudierende Talk given at a conference Topographic EEG methods and their application in research on learning to read and dyslexia 22.03.2014 Därstetten, Switzerland Maurer Urs;
Invited lecture. Teachers College, Columbia University Individual talk Neural mechanisms of orthographic processing in reading and dyslexia 10.03.2014 New York, United States of America Maurer Urs;
Invited lecture. Hong Kong Institute of Education Talk given at a conference Neural mechanisms underlying learning to read and dyslexia 23.01.2014 Hong Kong, Hongkong Maurer Urs;
LIFE Fall Academy Talk given at a conference Orthographic aspects of visual word processing in normal and dyslexic reading. 13.10.2013 Schloss Marbach, Germany Maurer Urs;
International Conference on Basic and Clinical Multimodal Imaging (BACI) Poster Neurocognitive mechanisms of learning to read: relation between print tuning and behavioral language measures 05.09.2013 Geneva, Switzerland Eberhard-Moscicka Aleksandra; Jost Lea; Maurer Urs;
Meeting of the Society for Scientific Studies of Reading (SSSR) Talk given at a conference Deviant automatic processing of speech sound deviance in dyslexia, as reflected in the late mismatch negativity (MMN) 13.07.2013 Hong Kong, Hongkong Jost Lea; Eberhard-Moscicka Aleksandra; Maurer Urs;
Reading across Languages Seminar, Hong Kong University Talk given at a conference Neural tuning for print and its role for learning to read and dyslexia. 10.07.2013 Hong Kong, Hongkong Maurer Urs;
20th annual meeting of the Cognitive Neuroscience Society Poster Neurocognitive mechanisms of learning to read: predicting print tuning by behavioral language measures. 13.04.2013 San Francisco, United States of America Maurer Urs; Raith Margit; Jost Lea; Eberhard-Moscicka Aleksandra;
20th annual meeting of the Cognitive Neuroscience Society Poster When spoken and written words meet in the brain: a developmental ERP study 13.04.2013 San Francisco, United States of America Eberhard-Moscicka Aleksandra; Jost Lea; Maurer Urs;
Deutsches Mapping Meeting Poster When spoken and written words meet in the brain 12.10.2012 Giessen, Deutschland, Germany Maurer Urs; Eberhard-Moscicka Aleksandra; Jost Lea;
Seminar at the Institute of Psychology / Chinese Academy of Science Talk given at a conference The development of specialized visual word processing: evidence from ERP and fMRI 15.06.2012 Beijing, China, China Maurer Urs;
Annual Meeting of the Organization for Human Brain Mapping Poster Development of print tuning during learning to read: effects of behavioral language measures 10.06.2012 Beijing, China, China Eberhard-Moscicka Aleksandra; Raith Margit; Jost Lea; Maurer Urs;
International Workshop on Brain, Cognition and Learning Talk given at a conference Neural basis of individual differences in reading acquisition: longitudinal results and implications for foreign language learning 08.06.2012 Beijing, China, China Maurer Urs;


Self-organised

Title Date Place

Knowledge transfer events

Active participation

Title Type of contribution Date Place Persons involved
Tagung des Verband Dyslexie Schweiz Talk 02.11.2013 Zürich, Switzerland Eberhard-Moscicka Aleksandra; Maurer Urs; Jost Lea; Raith Margit;
Tagung des Verband Dyslexie Schweiz Performances, exhibitions (e.g. for education institutions) 14.05.2011 Zürich, Switzerland Maurer Urs; Jost Lea; Raith Margit; Eberhard-Moscicka Aleksandra;


Communication with the public

Communication Title Media Place Year
Media relations: print media, online media Früh übt sich, wer ein Meister werden will Magazin der Universität Zürich German-speaking Switzerland 2014
Talks/events/exhibitions BrainFair German-speaking Switzerland 2012
Media relations: print media, online media Buchstabensalat im Gehirn Tagesanzeiger German-speaking Switzerland 2012
Media relations: print media, online media Erstklässler mit Risiko für Leseschwäche gesucht Winterthurer Zeitung German-speaking Switzerland 2012
Media relations: radio, television Figuring out how kids learn language World Radio Switzerland International German-speaking Switzerland Italian-speaking Switzerland Rhaeto-Romanic Switzerland Western Switzerland 2012
Media relations: print media, online media Kinder mit Leseschwäche gesucht Fritz&Fränzi German-speaking Switzerland 2012
Media relations: print media, online media Wenn das Gehirn nicht richtig lesen kann 20minuten German-speaking Switzerland 2012

Associated projects

Number Title Start Funding scheme
152947 Neural basis of individual differences in foreign language learning in school: effects of dyslexia and immigration 01.11.2014 SNSF Professorships

Abstract

Learning to speak and to read foreign languages is increasingly important in school, but the outcome varies strongly between individual children. Some children are particularly prone to becoming struggling language learners, such as children with dyslexia or possibly boys with an immigrant background. Taking an educational neuroscience approach, this project investigates how neural mechanisms are involved in children’s foreign language learning and determines the neural basis of individual differences by using EEG-based event-related brain potentials (ERPs). A mobile EEG system allows recordings also in schools. Three groups of children will be studied in a longitudinal design before and after one year of English learning in 2nd grade: 60 non-dyslexic monolingual children (large range from high to low socio-economic status), 30 dyslexic monolingual children, and 30 non-dyslexic bilingual children. Behavioral measures of auditory (speech discrimination, vocabulary) and visual (decoding, reading comprehension) language processing will be complemented with ERP indices of phoneme specialization (mismatch negativity), specialization for print (N1 effect), grapheme-phoneme conversion (P350-effect), and semantic processing (N400-effect). The central hypothesis is that foreign language learning and associated neural processes are influenced by biological disposition and previous language experience, but differently in different risk groups. The working hypotheses propose that gender and socio-economic status affect vocabulary and comprehension measures, whereas dyslexia affects more basic levels of language processing, as indexed behaviorally by decoding and speech discrimination, and neurally by phoneme specialization, print specialization, and grapheme-phoneme conversion. In contrast, bilingual children are not expected to show behavioral disadvantages in foreign language learning, but to show deviant processing of phoneme deviance and grapheme-phoneme conversion at the neural level. Finally, use of the neural measures recorded initially is expected to predict success of subsequent learning English in school, and to improve the prediction based on behavioral and background measures alone. The approach of the project is innovative because it bridges the traditionally disparate areas of neuroscience and education and because it applies a powerful longitudinal design along with well-validated behavioural and neural measures to a highly important social topic. The proposed research is significant because it is expected to provide the knowledge to develop tests allowing more accurate identification of children at risk for poor outcome in foreign language learning and advancement in the understanding of the neural mechanisms underlying individual differences in foreign language learning, which in turn will enable the development of training to target risk groups specifically.
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