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Department of Psychology pres.

Developmental Brown Bag: Measuring the brain and behavior during child-caregiver interaction: What can we learn about language and neurodevelopmental disorders?

Elizabeth Norton, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders at Northwestern University Director of Language, Education and Reading Neuroscience (or "LEARN") Lab

Norton Norton
Infants and toddlers learn language through dynamic, reciprocal interactions with their caregivers. Often, language development is studied using tasks that seem far from the engaging, natural context of the child’s everyday world. This is typically even more true of studies that examine the brain, because our brain imaging technologies like MRI and EEG typically require one person to engage in a repetitive task in front of a screen, with restricted motion. In this talk, I describe our work that aims assess language and brain measures in children with or at-risk for language disorders using innovative naturalistic, dyadic behavior and brain measures. One line of research uses a multi-dimensional approach to assess risk for later language disorder in late-talking children, including assessing irritability (a key indicator of later mental health risk), parent-child interaction, and the child’s brain and parent-child brain synchrony in the lab. Our EEG measures of the brain are collected from both toddlers and their mothers while they interact naturally, during activities such as watching a movie or completing a puzzle together. We use a micro-coding approach to identify different behavioral states and compare features of the child’s brain (such as EEG power in bands of interest) and similarity or synchrony between the child and parent’s brain (inter-brain power correlation and phase locking) across these states. We also assess children longitudinally via videochat, recording the parent and child at home, to enable additional timepoints of data while minimizing participant burden. A second project compares these brain measures in toddlers with autism and parents with the broader autism phenotype (sub-clinical autism-like symptoms). Together, these studies highlight the challenges and promises of using dyadic methods to give a more complete picture of a child’s language development.

Elizabeth Norton is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders at Northwestern University, where she directs the Language, Education and Reading Neuroscience (or “LEARN”) Lab. Her research combines behavioral and brain measures and seeks to understand typical development as well as reading, language, and neurodevelopmental disorders. She currently leads two NIH-funded research projects investigating early brain and behavior atypicalities and markers of prognosis in children with language delay or autism spectrum disorder. As a former high school teacher for students with dyslexia, she is particularly interested in understanding individual differences and working toward early identification and intervention for language and reading disabilities. Norton obtained her B.A. in Language and Brain Development at Dartmouth College, her Ph.D. at Tufts University in Child Study and Human Development, and postdoctoral training in the McGovern Institute for Brain Research at MIT.

Visit sponsors: Department of Psychology Developmental Area, Combined Program in Education & Psychology, Language & Literacy Laboratory (Director: Ioulia Kovelman, Psychology)
Norton Norton

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