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 152947
Funding scheme SNSF Professorships
Research institution Psychologisches Institut Universität Zürich
Institution of higher education University of Zurich - ZH
Main discipline Psychology
Start/End 01.11.2014 - 31.10.2015
Approved amount 59'482.00
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All Disciplines (3)

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

Keywords (10)

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

Lay Summary (German)

Lead
Fremdsprachen sind heute ein wichtiger Teil der Fächer in den Primarschulen. Da das Gehirn bei Kindern noch sehr formbar ist, können auch viele Kinder neue Sprachen gut lernen. Manche Kinder haben dabei aber grosse Schwierigkeiten. Wie das Kindergehirn Fremdsprachen lernt ist trotz grosser Fortschritte in der modernen Hirnforschung noch weitgehend unbekannt. Solches Wissen kann aber dazu beitragen, dass Kinder mit Lernschwierigkeiten bei Fremdsprachen künftig rechtzeitig und gezielt gefördert werden.
Lay summary

In einer vom Schweizerischen Nationalfonds unterstützen Studie untersuchen wir die neuronalen Mechanismen beim Lernen von Frühenglisch in der Primarschule. Besonders interessieren uns Kinder, die möglicherweise ein Risiko aufweisen, Schwierigkeiten beim Fremdsprachenlernen zu haben. Dazu gehören vermutlich Kinder mit einer Dyslexie (Leseschwäche, Legasthenie), Kinder aus bildungsfernen Familien und möglicherweise auch Jungen ganz generell. Kinder mit Migrationshintergrund profitieren möglicherweise von ihrer Zweisprachigkeit.

In einer Längsschnittstudie untersuchen wir nun die gleichen Kinder vor und nach dem ersten Jahr Englischlernen in der 2. Klasse. Dabei messen wir, wie sich das Lernen in den Hirnströmen zeigt (EEG, Elektroenzephalographie). Besonders interessiert uns, ob sich diese Veränderungen im EEG zwischen verschiedenen Risikogruppen unterscheiden, und ob man mit dem EEG vor der 2. Klasse das spätere Lernen vorhersagen kann.

Wir erhoffen uns dabei ein vertieftes Verständnis der Vorgänge im Gehirn beim Fremdsprachenlernen und bei Kindern mit einem Risiko für Lernschwierigkeiten im Fremdsprachbereich. Dieses Verständnis kann dazu beitragen, dass in Zukunft gezieltere Trainingsmethoden entwickelt und Kinder mit einem Risiko frühzeitig erkannt und gefördert werden können.

Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 26.02.2014

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 responses: A longitudinal study on classroom-based foreign language learning
Jost Lea B., Eberhard-Moscicka Aleksandra K., Pleisch Georgette, Heusser Veronica, Brandeis Daniel, Zevin Jason D., Maurer Urs (2015), Native and non-native speech sound processing and the neural mismatch responses: A longitudinal study on classroom-based foreign language learning, in NEUROPSYCHOLOGIA, 72, 94-104.
Neurocognitive mechanisms of learning to read: print tuning in beginning readers related to word-reading fluency and semantics but not phonology
Eberhard-Moscicka Aleksandra K., Jost Lea B., Raith Margit, Maurer Urs (2015), Neurocognitive mechanisms of learning to read: print tuning in beginning readers related to word-reading fluency and semantics but not phonology, in DEVELOPMENTAL SCIENCE, 18(1), 106-118.
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.

Collaboration

Group / person Country
Types of collaboration
Prof. V. Dellwo, Phonetics Lab, University of Zurich Switzerland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication
Prof. Cammie McBride, The Chinese University of Hong Kong Hongkong (Asia)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication
Prof. J. Zevin, University of Southern California United States of America (North America)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication
Dr. Simone Pfenninger, English Department, University of Zurich Switzerland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication
Dr. Sabine Stoll, Psycholinguistics Research Unit, University of Zurich Switzerland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication

Associated projects

Number Title Start Funding scheme
128610 Neural basis of individual differences in foreign language learning in school: effects of dyslexia and immigration 01.11.2010 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). Using mobile EEGs in schools, three groups of children are studied in a longitudinal design before and after one year of English learning in 2nd grade: non-dyslexic monolingual children, monolingual children with reading difficulties, and non-dyslexic bilingual children. An additional control group from the Canton Bern is also included, where English teaching starts later in 5th grade. 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), and grapheme-phoneme conversion (P350-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 reading difficulty 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. An extension of the project by one year allows the main applicant and the the two PhD students to complete analyses and publish the results. Moreover, the extension also allows to follow up the same children in 4th grade using behavioral tests. This additional follow-up data is expected to reveal the extent to which individual differences in learning English are robust over time, and improve the analyses regarding group differences and regarding prediction of individual differences. 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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