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Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Time: 1:30pm-2:30pm

Room: TSH B105

Speaker: Dr. Erin White, Post-Doctoral Research Fellow, Neurosciences and Mental Health, The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto

Title: Developing Language Networks in the Brain

During speech comprehension, how is it that we can create a meaningful representation of what was said, when different features of speech are processed by separate brain areas and at different timescales as it unfolds? During reading, how do we integrate visual, phonological and semantic information (recognition of letters, their sounds and the meaning of individual words) to build a meaningful representation of what we read? This is the so-called “Language binding problem” and it continues to be a central question in the neuroscience of language.

In this talk I will present evidence to suggest that functional connectivity (synchrony in the phase of EEG oscillations) can provide some answers. Typically developing children (ages 4-17) and adults (ages 18-36) engaged in various language and reading tasks, while EEG was recorded. Our results suggest that the brain integrates language information by coordinating the rhythm of neuronal activity among distributed brain regions, allowing these regions to communicate in “functional” networks. As children develop, the frequency used for this communication, its timing, and the brain areas involved, change to permit more efficient and precise language processing.  This work could provide new insights into the mechanisms of various language and learning difficulties, hopefully leading to more targeted educational and remediation programs.