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Slide Slam O1

Music-related neural and environmental predictors of early language development

Slide Slam Session O, Thursday, October 7, 2021, 2:30 - 4:30 pm PDT Log In to set Timezone

Eniko Ladanyi1, Srishti Nayak1, Catherine Bush1, Youjia Wang1, Alyssa Scartozzi1, Olivia Boorom1, Tiffany G. Woynaroski1, Miriam D. Lense1, Reyna L. Gordon1; 1Vanderbilt University Medical Center

An increasing number of studies show that rhythm and language skills are associated and that rhythm and language are heritable. Motivated by these and converging results, we proposed the Atypical Rhythm Risk Hypothesis which posits that individuals with poor rhythm are at higher risk for developmental speech/language disorders (Ladányi et al., 2020, Wiley Cog. Sci.). The current project aims to investigate the longitudinal relationship between rhythm and language development, specifically testing the Atypical Rhythm Risk Hypothesis by investigating if rhythm skills of infants or their parents could predict children’s risk for speech/language disorders. In our ongoing longitudinal study, first, we measured infants’ and their parents’ beat processing when the infant was between 6 and 12 months with a passive listening EEG paradigm (adapted from Iversen et al., 2009, ANYAS). Participants were presented with a repeated tone-tone-rest pattern in 20 blocks in which the position and the marking of the beat was manipulated. In half of the blocks (physical accent condition) the strong beat was marked with increased intensity while in the other half of the blocks (inferred beat condition) a physical accent was present at the beginning of the block but it was then phased out in order to create the illusion of the beat without the physical accents. Parents also completed a behavioral rhythm discrimination task and parent musicality, home musical environment and demographic questionnaires. When children turn 4, they will return for a speech-language evaluation. Between the two time-points, children’s vocabulary development is measured with parent questionnaires at 12, 18, 24 and 36 months. In the talk, we will discuss preliminary data from the study (n = 45 infant-parent dyads with data up to the 24 months vocabulary assessment). Results from a cluster-based permutation tests of event-related potentials (ERPs) and evoked time-frequency activity in the beat processing task show that both parents and infants discriminated between beat patterns, both when the beat was physically accented and when the beat was inferred. Infants with a larger ERP response to the beat at the onset of inferred beats have a larger receptive vocabulary reported by the parent at 12 months (r = .53, p = .014). In addition, home musical environment shows a positive relationship with expressive vocabulary at 18 (r = .38, p = .012) and 24 months (r = .41, p = .013). These associations remain significant when socio-economic status is taken into account. Our results suggest that the EEG beat processing task is a feasible measure of rhythm skills at infancy. The association of beat processing with 12-month vocabulary size is consistent with the hypothesis that domain-general beat processing abilities support or share biological processes with early word-learning, potentially by facilitating word segmentation. The longitudinal relationship between home musical environment at infancy and vocabulary development in the second year of life suggests that a more enriched musical environment could support language acquisition. These results converge with a growing body of work showing overlaps between musical development and language development.

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