Current Projects

Brain Processes Underlying Semantic Deficits in Developmental Language Disorder

The purpose of the research is twofold: 1) to characterize how children with developmental language disorder (DLD) process the meanings of words differently than children with typical language, and 2) to determine how those differences are related to their abilities to learn and process the meanings of words. We are conducting this research so as to add to our limited understanding of the unconscious brain processes that might contribute to the struggles with language, especially with learning and processing the meanings of words, that school-aged children with DLD experience. The goal is to better understand how the ability to learn and process the meanings of words varies across both children with DLD and their peers with non-disordered language development. Children with and without DLD aged 10 to 12 years will complete a series of behavioral assessments, including a measure of their knowledge of word meanings, and a computer task where words are sequentially presented on a computer monitor (a masked priming task), during which brain wave (EEG) data and behavioral responses will be collected. The findings of this research might help us to identify the causes for children with DLD’s struggles with learning and processing the meanings of words, which will allow for better diagnosis and treatment of DLD in the future.

School Age Screening Study

Funding: National Institute for Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIH-NIDCD 1R21DC018865)
The purpose of this study is to develop a screening tool for the identification of Developmental Language Disorder (DLD) in English monolingual and Spanish-English bilingual children aged 9 to 12 years. This study is a preliminary assessment of multiple screening measures for DLD. The ultimate aim of this study is to develop one or more brief screening tool(s) to be made available for classrooms to use to identify students at risk for DLD and in need of further evaluation. The tool(s) will assess domains of language in which poor performance is indicative of less easily identifiable characteristics of DLD found in students with unidentified DLD who typically go unnoticed. Determining which domains of language can identify this population with DLD would lead to helping a large population of students receive the additional support they need. This research is important because the targeted population is largely under-identified, leading to impacted success outcomes and associated injustices.

Word Learning in Heritage Speakers

This project aims to evaluate how different language experiences in adult Spanish heritage speakers influence word learning. Participants with exposure to Spanish prior to the age of four years of age complete standardized language and cognitive assessments as well as word learning tasks. The participants had significant exposure to a language other than English or Spanish and had no history of neurological or reading disorders. The objective is to examine whether early childhood experiences with two languages have a unique impact on semantic systems that facilitates word learning in adulthood. Data collection for this project is conducted online.

Word Learning in Developmental Language Disorder (DLD)

Funding: National Institute for Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIH-NIDCD 1R21DC018865)

This project combines behavioral and brain methods to examine the processes underlying word learning from context in school-aged children with DLD. Children complete a word learning from context task while we collect electroencephalography (EEG) data. Behavioral measures of word learning tell us how successful children are learning new words and the strategies they use during this process. EEG allows for a real-time examination of word learning without requiring overt responses and also offers a way of examining the neural mechanisms and associated processes involved in word learning. Data collection for this project is conducted at SDSU.