GRECIL
Cognition and Language Research Group

Research lines

 

A. Learning, identifying, prevention and intervention in cases of spoken and written language difficulties: 

A1. Analysis of the role of declarative and procedural memory systems for learning vocabulary and grammar in children with and without SLI/DDL.

This line of research looks at how children with SLI/DLD acquire language. Vocabulary and grammar are engaged in different neural systems. These systems fundamentally distinguish between the lexical system, where phonological information and its associated meanings are stored, and the grammar system, which computes the meanings of complex forms using grammatical rules. According to the declarative/procedural model of language, these two types of processing are managed by means of two different systems: the declarative system for lexicon and the procedural system for grammar. Children with SLI/DLD are very heterogeneous because they have difficulties with both vocabulary and grammar. This project studies the workings of these two systems (declarative and procedural) in relation to the learning of lexicon and grammar in the population with and without SLI/DLD.

Contact: Nadia Ahufinger (nadiahufinger@uoc.edu)

A2. Study of clinical markers and creation of tools for the identification and assessment of language development difficulties in oral communication.

There are currently no tests for assessing spoken language in Catalan. Speech therapists, psychologists and teachers are thus forced to assess children’s language level either with standardized tests carried out in Spanish or by translating these into Catalan while still using the scales in Spanish. This leads to significant assessment and diagnosis errors. Our project aims to translate, adapt and validate these assessment tests in Catalan. We are also working on creating new screening tools in Catalan and adapting other tests from other languages. Furthermore, we are developing a set of non-linguistic clinical markers for the diagnosis of language disorders that are unrelated to the children’s native language so they can be used with speakers of different languages. 

Contact: Mònica Sanz Torrent (monicasanz@ub.edu)

A3. Development of evidence-based programmes for intervention in cases of language and communication disorders in children.

Children with language and communication disorders need evidence-based treatments and assessments that can be offered both face-to-face and remotely (telepractice) to ensure they can make progress through the various milestones of life. Furthermore, speech therapy best practices in clinical and educational settings require the use of effective and efficient implementation practices that take account of clinical experience, scientific evidence and the subject’s own characteristics. This line of research focuses on the study of programmes for the assessment and treatment of communication and language disorders in the context of neurodevelopmental disorders (such as SLI/DLD and ASD) on the basis of applied research. 

Contact: Alfonso Igualada Pérez (aigualada@uoc.edu) and Llorenç Andreu (landreub@uoc.edu)

A4. Study of the benefits of gestures in interventions relating to the narrative skills of people with early-stage SLI/DLD and ASD and those with typical development (TD). 

In the daily interactions that take place in our natural surroundings, both children and adults use gestures to help them express themselves and make themselves understood. Language and communication are therefore multimodal in nature. This means that we use hand and facial gestures and prosody to express lexical, syntactic, narrative and pragmatic meanings. We also know that gestures play a key role in the development of language and communication skills in children with typical development (TD) and that they are both predictors and predecessors of later skills. Furthermore, we know that failure to use gestures in early life is an early predictor of disorders such as SLI/DLD and ASD, and that people with these disorders have different gesture development patterns to people with TD from early childhood until later childhood stages. This line of research looks into the assessment and treatment of language through the use and potential benefits of multimodality in young children (from early childhood to 5 years old) with SLI/DLD and ASD. 

Contact: Alfonso Igualada Pérez (aigualada@uoc.edu)

A5. Analysis of the main predictors of reading and writing development in children with and without SLI/DLD.

A high percentage – around 50% – of children with SLI/DLD have difficulty learning to read, and between 22% and 83% (depending on the criterion you use) have poor reading comprehension skills. In addition, children with SLI/DLD tend to have writing difficulties too. Most of the studies carried out have been conducted on monolingual English-speaking children. English is an opaque, morphologically poor language with a very rigid syntactic structure. The main goal of this line of research is thus to establish which variables result in bilingual (Spanish and Catalan) children with SLI/DLD having reading comprehension and/or decoding difficulties and what writing issues they suffer from, taking into account that both these languages are transparent, morphologically rich and syntactically flexible. This line of research also aims to analyse the main predictors of reading and writing development in both Catalan- and Spanish-speaking children who do not suffer from difficulties.

Contact: Llorenç Andreu (landreub@uoc.edu) and Cristina Martínez-García (cmartinezgarcia8@uoc.edu

A6. Inclusion of the feminist perspective in the identification and assessment of children with learning and language difficulties and related interventions.

Although the cause of developmental language disorder (SLI/DLD) is not yet fully understood, the risk factors associated with it have been studied and defined. These include a family history of language difficulties, being the youngest sibling in the family, having a mother with a low level of education, being a late talker, and being male. But does SLI/DLD manifest equally in boys and girls? What do we know about the biological differences of gender in relation to SLI/DLD? What role does socialization based on sexist stereotypes play in this disorder? Does SLI/DLD research consider the differences between boys and girls? This line of research attempts to answer all these questions through review and experimental studies.

Contact: Nadia Ahufinger (nadiahufinger@uoc.edu) and Mari Aguilera (mari.aguilera@ub.edu)

 

B. Multimodal integration in language development in children with and without neurodevelopmental disorders:

B1. Analysis of the role of speech prosody and body gestures in language processing in children with SLI/DLD and ASD. 

The communicative intent of speakers goes beyond the literal meaning of the words used (lexicon) or the way they are combined (morphosyntax). In this line of research, we study how children with typical and atypical development understand this communicative intent, the pragmatic dimension of language. We do this by looking at two elements of communication that help convey pragmatic meaning: prosody, i.e. intonation, rhythm and accent of speech, and gestures. Following on from previous studies that have highlighted the importance of pragmatic skills in language acquisition, we want to investigate whether the presence of prosodic and gestural markers can help children with developmental language disorders (SLI/DLD) or autism spectrum disorder (ASD) to understand the communicative intent of their interlocutors. The results of these studies could help us establish the most suitable context for the development of communication skills by children with SLI/DLD or ASD in the best possible way.

Contact: Núria Esteve-Gibert (nesteveg@uoc.edu)

B2. Study of the audiovisual integration of speech in children with SLI/DLD.

This line of research is being conducted with bilingual (Catalan-Spanish) children with developmental language disorder (SLI/DLD). The aim is to observe whether, in recognition tasks where words are presented aurally, audiovisually or through hyperarticulation, the children demonstrate selective attention (in the eyes and mouth) and perform differently to children without SLI/DLD. The methodology used is eye tracking. We are also interested in learning how phonological and lexical difficulties may affect the audiovisual integration of speech and whether there are any differences in the way words are processed in the predominant language, and the type of effects on language.

Contact: Laura Ferinu (lferinu@uoc.edu). 

B3. Analysis of the degree of bilingualism and technology use in children with ASD.

This line of research analyses language use, preference and vocabulary learning in different linguistic contexts (monolingual and bilingual) according to type of learning (interaction with the person or interaction with technology) in people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). According to statistics, 1 in 68 people have a diagnosis of ASD. Bilingualism and technology use have not been studied systemically in this population. Bilingualism, technology use and preferred language are expected to provide greater benefits and advantages for people with ASD in their use and learning of a second or foreign language compared to people without ASD. Languages of study: Spanish, Catalan and English.

Contact: Fernanda Pachecho Vera (fpachecove@uoc.edu)

 

C. Development of executive functions, quality of life and emotional development in people with developmental disorders: 

C1. Cognitive development and how it relates to communication and language in children with typical development and in children with difficulties.

This line of research studies the influence of early social interactions (at 0-12 months) on the development of babies’ executive function and language. Studies on congenitally deaf children are used to illustrate this link, because early social interaction and the development of intersubjectivity have been disrupted in their case. Unlike what is usually the case in other groups, we know that developmental difficulties are mainly environmental rather than neurobiological in nature. We are therefore able to more accurately distinguish those impacts on executive functions that are linked to social interaction and language, because any possible confusions regarding cognitive development difficulties are largely controlled for. This work provides a unifying model of how social, cognitive and language development work together in early development in humans.

Contact: Gary Morgan (gmorgan0@uoc.edu)

C2. Analysis and promotion of quality of life and personal autonomy in people with developmental disorders.

The aim of this line of research is to understand and promote quality of life, more specifically personal autonomy-related skills, in people with developmental disorders, autism spectrum disorder and/or intellectual disabilities. This line of research also proposes the use of a holistic and participatory approach that includes all the education agents involved (family members, professionals and the person with the disability themself). We want to ascertain how these skills are developed in the framework of the life of the person with the disability and how their context can act help or hinder their development. 

Contact: Cristina Mumbardó (cmumbardo@ub.edu)

C3. Emotional regulation and development of children with neurodevelopmental disorders and their families.

The world of emotions and their regulation is a complex process that is still full of unknowns as far as the research is concerned. The new diagnostic approach to DLD has broadened the framework of our understanding of the disorder in which socio-emotional difficulties play a key role in furthering our knowledge of the disorder’s impact on the lives of children who have it. In addition, this line of research proposes a comprehensive approach to the disorder in which family plays an important and active part. We want to learn about the emotional regulation difficulties suffered by patients’ families, as well as the emotions and difficulties they face throughout the process of finding professional help and securing a diagnosis and treatment. 

Contact: Mari Aguilera (mari.aguilera@ub.edu) and Nadia Ahufinger (nadiahufinger@uoc.edu)

 

D. Cognitive biases and unfounded beliefs: 

D1. Study of the cognitive basis of pseudoscientific and other unfounded beliefs.

Pseudoscientific beliefs, as well as other unfounded beliefs (such as conspiracy theories and belief in paranormal phenomena) are a risk to today’s society due to their ability to negatively affect the fields of health or education, among other examples. Beyond the possible effect of social and cultural factors, our group studies whether the tendency to entertain such beliefs can be partially explained by differences in the way the cognitive system of susceptible people works, so we can seek techniques against them.

Contact: Javier Rodríguez-Ferreiro (rodriguezferreiro@ub.edu) and Itxaso Barberia Fernández (itsasobarberia@ub.edu

D2. Analysis of the conditions that can lead to causality bias.

Causality bias is a cognitive bias that leads people to believe that there is a causal link between events when they are in fact unconnected. Our team takes account of the key role played by causal reasoning in human thinking to study different variables that could affect the appearance of this bias, as well as strategies to help reduce its incidence.

Contact: Itxaso Barberia Fernández (itsasobarberia@ub.edu) and Javier Rodríguez-Ferreiro (rodriguezferreiro@ub.edu)

D3. Influence of cognitive biases on decision-making in everyday life.

Our research focuses in a general manner on the identification of different cognitive biases or systematic trends in the interpretation of information that may affect people’s judgement and decision-making in areas such as probabilistic estimation or the development of prejudice.

Contact: Javier Rodríguez-Ferreiro (rodriguezferreiro@ub.edu) and Itxaso Barberia Fernández (itsasobarberia@ub.edu

 

E. Effects of prior exposure, perceptual learning and discrimination of complex stimuli: 

E1. Study of the mechanisms responsible for perceptual learning in animals other than humans.

Perceptual learning is the facilitation of discrimination of similar stimuli as a result of mere exposure. The focus of our research is the assessment of a variety of theories that have been put forward to explain this phenomenon.

Contact: Antonio Álvarez Artigas (talvarez@ub.edu

E2. Study of perceptual learning and discrimination in humans.

Although exposure to complex stimuli has similar effects in humans and animals, differences in procedures have led to the proposal of different explanations from those considered when working with other animals. This line of research also seeks evidence among the various theories put forward to provide an explanation for perceptual learning.

Contact: Antonio Álvarez Artigas (talvarez@ub.edu)

 

 

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