Cross-cultural differences in speech perception in Monolingual Infants

Using novel electrophysiological paradigm, I investigate the neural patterns associated with learning native speech sounds. It is well known that infants “commit” to the sounds of their native language by the end of the first year. However, there is little research exploring the neural processes behind the cognitive mechanisms in learning native speech sounds. My research has focused in answering this question by finding neural patters of speech perception that can predict future language abilities in monolingual (English and Spanish) and bilingual infants.

Cross-cultural differences in speech perception in Bilingual Infants

I produced the first longitudinal study of speech development linking early brain responses, language input received in the household, and later vocabulary development in bilingual infants. I have been using a broad array of research methodologies to study the development of infant speech perception and its relationship to social/linguistic input and later language abilities. For example, I have assessed neural commitment by brain measures of neural discrimination for English, Spanish, Chinese and Hindi speech contrasts in English monolingual and English-Spanish bilingual infants. Testing the relative performance of bilingual and monolingual infants on a shared foreign contrast will provide a better picture of bilingual infants’ neural commitment over time to their native languages. Me and my collaborator (Dr. Ramirez-Esparza) use non-invasive technology to record the social and language environments of monolingual and bilingual infants that can better explain how infants learn language.

Cross-cultural differences in speech perception in Bilingual and Monolingual Adults

I also explore speech perception in bilingual adults. In this case I am interested in assessing the ability of bilinguals to activate the appropriate language at the appropriate time and to the appropriate degree. I record brain responses in two different “language modes” to observe how early- and late-brain-responses associated with speech categorization change as a function of the language being used at a given moment.

 Ongoing work in Bilinguals’ Speech Perception

In collaboration with Dr. Erika Skoe at the Department of Speech, Language and Hearing Sciences at the University of Connecticut. Our project examines the neural mechanisms that facilitate communication across languages. Electrophysiological techniques will be used to simultaneously measure auditory brainstem responses and cortical-evoked auditory potentials in Spanish-English bilingual and English monolingual adults. The objectives are to delineate how linguistic context deferentially affects cortical and subcortical auditory processing.