Neuronal groups in the brain process information in a rhythmical way, and can also track the speech rhythm. Using EEG, the coherence between the speech amplitude envelope and the electrophysiological response can be identified. This rhythmical neural tracking enables forming temporal predictions about salient events in the input, ensuring the brain is most excitable at times when the speech signal carries the most information. This helps in grouping information in analyzable units such as words and phrases, and this facilitates speech processing. I will discuss research showing that just like in adults, neural oscillations in the infant brain track the rhythm of speech at different frequencies. I will report results of our studies relating speech-brain coherence in infants to word segmentation and further language development, both in typically developing infants and in infants with a family history of autism. I will argue that rhythmic neural speech tracking reflects infants’ attention to specific parts of the speech signal (e.g. stressed syllables), and simultaneously acts as a core mechanism for maximizing temporal attention onto those parts.
Bio Tineke Snijders
Tineke Snijders’ research focuses on (individual differences in) language processing in the brain, both in the adult and during child language development. In her work she has used a combination of different neuroimaging techniques (EEG, fMRI, MEG), in both typical and clinical populations. Having studied sentence comprehension in the adult brain during her PhD at the Donders Centre for Cognitive Neuroimaging in Nijmegen, and neural oscillations and entrainment to visual stimuli in autism during her postdoctoral years in Utrecht University, she received a Veni grant to study individual differences in neural sensitivity to rhythm in infants, and its relation to language development. After working as Senior Investigator at the Max Planck Institute in Nijmegen, she is an Assistant Professor in the Cognitive Neuropsychology Department at Tilburg University since 2021, where she continues to explore the interaction between brain maturation and language development, as well as the influence of multimodal cues hereon.
About the ACLC seminar series
The ACLC seminar series is a two weekly lecture series organized by the ACLC, the Amsterdam Center for Language and Communication.