Speaker: Dr Dean D’Souza
Infants seem to develop at a rapid pace and with apparent ease, yet we know relatively little about how this is accomplished. This is partly because development emerges through cascades of complex interactions between many diverse factors. Some of these factors are internal, such as genetic mutations, others are external, such as the language environment the child is growing up in.
Understanding how infants develop and, for example, acquire language, therefore necessitates interdisciplinary research across multiple interdependent domains (e.g., learning, attention, sleep), modalities (e.g., haptic, auditory, visual), and levels of description (from genes to social context) over developmental time.
For this talk, various factors that are likely to constrain early cognitive and language development will be discussed. In the first half, the focus will be on elucidating internal constraints – specifically, early predictors of language development (visual attention, auditory attention, sleep) in infants and toddlers with one of three genetic disorders: Down syndrome, fragile X syndrome, and Williams syndrome.
This line of research is crucial to understanding variability in language development and may pave the way to early syndrome-specific interventions. In the second half, the focus will shift to external constraints – specifically, on whether early cognitive development is contingent on the number of languages that the infant is hearing in their home environment.
The findings from these studies will be framed and interpreted in terms of early (experience-driven) adaptations to different developmental constraints.
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