As many as one in ten children have the poor reading and spelling skills that comprise developmental dyslexia. It is widely accepted that there is a neurological basis;however, the nature of that basis is hotly debated. Nevertheless, one consistent view is that poor phonological processing-the ability to access and manipulate the sound units of language-is involved in dyslexia. Indeed, a majority of children with reading deficits exhibit difficulties on an array of phonological processing tasks. A growing body of research has discovered that speech-sound transcription, as measured by electrophysiology, shows striking relationships with phonological processing skills and reading ability in school-age children. As such, we have developed a suite of subcortical and cortical physiological tests that probe some of the core deficits that researchers have postulated as the root elements of poor phonological processing. We will target the subcortical processing of time-varying signals and stimulus regularities, and cortical hemispheric specialization to both fast and slow signals. In a longitudinal cohort of four- to eight-year-olds, we will model the normal neurological speech transcription process, quantify its development, and examine its relationship with the development of literacy-related skills. Our intention is that by leveraging these electrophysiological probes to a pre-reading age group, a biomarker, in preschoolers, may be found that predicts a child's eventual reading skill as he/she progresses through the primary grades. If such a biomarker is found, it would pave the way for earlier and more effectively targeted intervention.

Public Health Relevance

As objective neurophysiological measures of literacy become available, a logical step is to apply what has been learned about subcortical and cortical physiology and their relationships with reading to young pre- readers. The outcome of the proposed work will be a deeper understanding of the biological underpinnings of literacy, particularly in pre-literate children, and a means to exploit objective biological responses as biomarkers of future literacy. This outcome will positively impact our understanding of the core deficits leading to poor reading, and has the potential to spur early intervention programs to head off the potential onset of developmental dyslexia.

Agency
National Institute of Health (NIH)
Institute
Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development (NICHD)
Type
Research Project (R01)
Project #
5R01HD069414-02
Application #
8433336
Study Section
Special Emphasis Panel (ZRG1-BBBP-L (04))
Program Officer
Miller, Brett
Project Start
2012-04-01
Project End
2017-03-31
Budget Start
2013-04-01
Budget End
2014-03-31
Support Year
2
Fiscal Year
2013
Total Cost
$379,124
Indirect Cost
$119,603
Name
Northwestern University at Chicago
Department
Other Health Professions
Type
Schools of Arts and Sciences
DUNS #
160079455
City
Evanston
State
IL
Country
United States
Zip Code
60201
Thompson, Elaine C; Woodruff Carr, Kali; White-Schwoch, Travis et al. (2016) Hemispheric Asymmetry of Endogenous Neural Oscillations in Young Children: Implications for Hearing Speech In Noise. Sci Rep 6:19737
Carr, Kali Woodruff; Tierney, Adam; White-Schwoch, Travis et al. (2016) Intertrial auditory neural stability supports beat synchronization in preschoolers. Dev Cogn Neurosci 17:76-82
Thompson, Elaine C; Woodruff Carr, Kali; White-Schwoch, Travis et al. (2016) Individual differences in speech-in-noise perception parallel neural speech processing and attention in preschoolers. Hear Res :
Kraus, Nina; White-Schwoch, Travis (2015) Unraveling the Biology of Auditory Learning: A Cognitive-Sensorimotor-Reward Framework. Trends Cogn Sci 19:642-54
Skoe, Erika; Krizman, Jennifer; Anderson, Samira et al. (2015) Stability and plasticity of auditory brainstem function across the lifespan. Cereb Cortex 25:1415-26
White-Schwoch, Travis; Woodruff Carr, Kali; Thompson, Elaine C et al. (2015) Auditory Processing in Noise: A Preschool Biomarker for Literacy. PLoS Biol 13:e1002196
Spitzer, Emily; White-Schwoch, Travis; Carr, Kali Woodruff et al. (2015) Continued maturation of the click-evoked auditory brainstem response in preschoolers. J Am Acad Audiol 26:30-5
White-Schwoch, Travis; Davies, Evan C; Thompson, Elaine C et al. (2015) Auditory-neurophysiological responses to speech during early childhood: Effects of background noise. Hear Res 328:34-47
Woodruff Carr, Kali; White-Schwoch, Travis; Tierney, Adam T et al. (2014) Beat synchronization predicts neural speech encoding and reading readiness in preschoolers. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 111:14559-64
Skoe, Erika; Kraus, Nina (2013) Musical training heightens auditory brainstem function during sensitive periods in development. Front Psychol 4:622

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