•               Current Articles in Speech-Language

     First Article       Sports LInked to Language Comprehension

    Second Article  Children Better Prepared for School

    Sports Linked to Language Comprehension
    Playing and even watching sports enhances the ability to understand related language 
    Being an athlete or merely a fan improves language skills when it comes to discussing their sport because parts of the brain usually involved in playing sports are instead used to understand sport language, new research at the University of Chicago shows (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Sept. 2, 2008).

    The research was conducted on hockey players, fans, and people who'd never seen or played the game. It shows, for the first time, that a region of the brain usually associated with planning and controlling actions is activated when players and fans listen to conversations about their sport. The brain boost helps athletes and fans understanding of information about their sport, even though at the time when people are listening to this sport language they have no intention to act.

    The study shows that the brain may be more flexible in adulthood than previously thought. "We show that non-language related activities, such as playing or watching a sport, enhance one's ability to understand language about their sport precisely because brain areas normally used to act become highly involved in language understanding," said Sian Beilock, PhD, associate professor in Psychology at the University of Chicago.

    "Experience playing and watching sports has enduring effects on language understanding by changing the neural networks that support comprehension to incorporate areas active in performing sports skills," Dr. Beilock noted.

    The research could have greater implications for learning. It shows that engaging in an activity taps into brain networks not normally associated with language, which improves the understanding of language related to that activity, she added.

    For the study, researchers asked 12 professional and intercollegiate hockey players, eight fans and nine individuals who had never watched a game to listen to sentences about hockey players, such as shooting, making saves and being engaged in the game. They also listened to sentences about everyday activities, such as ringing doorbells and pushing brooms across the floor. While the subjects listened to the sentences, their brains were scanned using functioning Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI), which allows one to infer the areas of the brain most active during language listening.

    After hearing the sentences in the fMRI scanner, subjects performed a battery of tests designed to gauge their comprehension of those sentences.

    Although most subjects understood the language about everyday activities, hockey players and fans were substantially better than novices at understanding hockey-related language.

    Brain imaging revealed that when hockey players and fans listen to language about hockey, they show activity in the brain regions usually used to plan and select well-learned physical actions. The increased activity in motor areas of the brain helps hockey players and fans to better understanding hockey language. The results show that playing sports, or even just watching, builds a stronger understanding of language, Dr. Beilock said.

    Joining Dr. Beilock in this research were Howard Nusbaum, Professor of Psychology at the University; Steven Small, Professor of Neurology and Psychology at the University; and Dr. Beilock's doctoral students Ian Lyons and Andrew Mattarella-Micke.
         source:           Advance For Speech-Language Pathology    October  2008
    Children Better Prepared for School

    Young children whose parents read aloud to them have better language and literacy skills when they go to school, according to a new review (Archives of Disease in Childhood, July 2008).

    Children who have been read aloud to are also more likely to develop a love of reading, which can be even more important than the head start in language and literacy. And the advantages they gain persist, with children who start out as poor readers in their first year of school likely to remain so.

    In addition, describing pictures in the book, explaining the meaning of the story, and encouraging the child to talk about what has been read to them and to ask questions can improve their understanding of the world and their social skills.

    The review brings together a wide range of published research on the benefits of reading aloud to children. It also includes evidence that middle class parents are more likely to read to their children than poorer families.

    The authors, Elisabeth Duursma, EdD, and Barry Zuckerman, MD of the Reach Out and Read Program in Boston, MA, and Marilyn Augustun, MD, of the Department of Pediatrics at Boston University School of Medicine, explained that the style of reading has more impact on children's early language and literacy development than the frequency of reading aloud.

    Middle class parents tend to use a more interactive style, making connections to the child's own experience or real world, explaining new words and the motivations of the characters, while working class parents tend to focus more on labeling and describing pictures. These differences in reading styles can impact on children's development of language and literacy-related skills.

    The Reach Out and Read program provides books and advice to the parents about the importance of reading aloud. Parents who have been given books were four times more likely to say they had looked at books with their children or that looking at books was one of their child's favorite activities, and twice as likely to read aloud to their children at least three times a week.

    The full paper is available online at: http://press.psprings.co.uk/adc/may/ac106336.pdf.  

Last Modified on November 5, 2008