Conference by Dr. Evelyne Mercure
Voice and language processing in the infant brain
Abstract: From the first days of life, babies appear to be naturally attracted to human voices. Recent advances in neuroimaging methods now allow studying brain responses to these socially relevant stimuli in young infants. Both fMRI and fNIRS suggest a network of areas specialized for processing human speech and non-speech vocalisations in infancy. However, it is unclear how these patterns of activation are influenced by early pre- and post-natal experience. Hearing infants with deaf parents have a very different early experience of speech and language to that of hearing infants with hearing parents. For this reason, they represent a unique opportunity to study the potential role of experience in shaping brain representation for language. Preliminary fNIRS activation to spoken and sign language will be discussed in relation to language experience in infants with deaf parents, infants with monolingual hearing parents and infants with bilingual hearing parents.
Short Bio: Evelyne Mercure studied Speech & Language Pathology, as well as Neuroscience, at the University of Montreal before moving to London in 2004. She obtained her Ph.D. from Birkbeck College, University of London, in 2008. She is presently a Future Research Leader fellow at UCL Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience and is interested in preverbal communication and social perception in the infant brain. She is currently studying the impact of early language experience on infant brain development and language learning.