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Departmental Colloquium: Neural oscillations in the service of speech processing and language development

Judit Gervain
Wednesday, November 15, 2023, 4:00 pm – 5:30 pm

The talk will present a series of neuroimaging studies with young infants investigating how embedded neural oscillations, the neural architecture argued to be responsible for speech processing in adults (Giraud & Poeppel 2012), emerges during early development. Specifically, the studies investigate the hypothesis that prenatally heard speech, strongly low-pass filtered by the intrauterine environment, already align slower oscillations, delta and theta, with the rhythms of the language heard prenatally, while the full-band speech signal experienced postnatally aligns the faster gammas oscillations. As a result the hierarchy of neural oscillations found in adults emerges as a result of the chronology of infants’ early experience with speech. Furthermore, the talk will suggest that it is possible to find the neural signatures of learning and attuning to the native language already at birth in the temporal dynamics of newborn infants’ electrophysiological responses. To conclude, the talk will discuss how this may lay the foundations for later language development.