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Department of Speech-Language-Hearing Sciences, University of Minnesota - Twin Cities

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Understanding and Modeling the Brain

Mission Statement

The acquisition of language skills is a quintessential human characteristic reflecting how the brain reinvents itself in endless possibilities through symbolic representations. Despite maturational and age constraints, the brain possesses amazingly versatile computational power to adapt quickly and rewire itself in response to internal changes, structural insult, external stimulation, and learning experience.

The overall goal of research in the Zhang Lab is to characterize brain plasticity across the life span and define more clearly what the neural signature markers are for normal and pathological development of speech and language. Three lines of speech-language-hearing research are represented, namely, developmental, cross-linguistic, and pathological. An integrative approach is pursued: (a) "top-down" (figurative sense) brain imaging in high-density electroencephalography (EEG) and magnetoencephalography (MEG), integrated with Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) and functional MRI (fMRI), which quantifies regional temporal and spatial details and cross-region interactions for different levels of information processing and performance, and (b) "bottom-up" construction by investigating specific aspects of brain functions/dysfunctions in neural coding and computational modeling, which allows a detailed examination of the language input and learning/coding mechanisms that make the sonic and optical experiences uniquely human in service of communicative functions.

Keywords: Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience; Infant and Child Speech Perception; Bilingualism; Second Language Acquisition; Autism; Hearing Loss

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