LEARN Lab

Research


The LEARN Lab studies questions such as:

  • Can brain measures and traditional assessments allow us to identify children who will develop language, learning, or reading disorders, even before we can usually diagnose that disorder?
  • How does the brain process language? How does this change during development? How is it different in disorders?
  • In what ways do parent input relate to children’s language development?
  • What is the intersection between disorders or challenges in language and mental health?

 

Brief synopses of some of our current studies:

Social EEG: Parent-child brain similarity during interaction in typical development and autism

This study investigates parent-child interaction and language development in toddlers. We hope to learn how these skills develop in typical children and children with autism. To do so, we video record parents and toddlers as they play together, measuring their brain similarity and how they respond to each other throughout the interaction. This project could help researchers better understand how children develop language and social skills and could lead to improved methods for early identification of developmental disorders such as autism. To see if you and your child are eligible to participate in this study, please see this attached flyer. This research is funded by NIDCD.

 

“When to worry” about language development or irritability

It is common for toddlers to experience irritable behaviors like temper tantrums and also common for toddlers to have language delays. Many toddlers who experience these challenges end up developing typically, but others face longer-term difficulties with mental health, language, or both. This study uses a variety of measures like assessments in the lab, parent questionnaires, and social EEG to look at the longitudinal patterns of development from toddler to preschool age. With our colleague Dr. Laurie Wakschlag, we hope to be able to provide parents and pediatricians with guidelines on “when to worry” about language and irritability in toddlers. Learn more at the study website, http://w2w.northwestern.edu. This research is funded by NIDCD and NIMH.

 

Brain and behavior correlates of early school age language

This project assesses the brain’s response to sound, and whether this response is stable over time. We are also interested in how these responses relate to language abilities. We hope that this research will identify whether brain measures could be used as predictors of future reading and language achievement. If you are interested in participating in this study, please contact learnlab@northwestern.edu.

 

Promoting language development via an app for parents

Can parents promote optimal language learning for their toddlers by using a smartphone app? Technology could help parents implement language learning strategies and promote healthy language development for their children. In this study, parents of toddlers use an app that provides strategies to enrich daily interactions. We want to find out how toddlers’ language changes as their parents use these strategies within their daily lives. This research can help us consider new ways to implement language intervention using low-cost technology with the hopes of improving language outcomes for all children. Although we are not currently enrolling new participants for this study, we may enroll additional participants soon! If you’re interested, see this attached flyer.

 

Understanding how letter-sound integration relates to reading ability

A fluent reader’s brain quickly connects letters and their associated speech sounds. The purpose of the project is to examine the role of letter-sound integration in children’s reading. We use a combination of pen-and-paper assessments and brain measure that records natural electrical activity in the brain using EEG. This work could give insights into better identification and intervention for children with reading difficulties. Data collection is complete for this study!

 

You can go to the publications page to view and download our publications.

If you are interested in participating in our research, please contact learnlab@northwestern.edu.

If you are interested in joining the lab, please contact Dr. Norton.

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