Development of auditory speech-relevant processes in fetuses and neonates
The ability to recognize and categorize minimal frequency changes within a speech signal is the basis for the extraction of linguistic information. Accordingly, deficits in auditory processing influence the progress of speech development as well as later speech performance. Since in this case later problems in speaking or understanding come along with a normal cognitive development and peripheral hearing, auditory impairments are not discovered by standard screening methods during the critical phase of speech acquisition. Studies in dysphasic children and adults show a relationship between impaired auditory discrimination abilities and reduced brain responses. Up to now, neurophysiological studies on fetal or neonatal auditory speech-relevant perception and processing skills are still rare.
The project systematically investigates the fundamental auditory frequency processing in healthy fetuses and neonates in order to provide basic knowledge during gestational and postnatal development as well as, in the long term, to devise a screening tool to discover a disposition for a language impairment at an early developmental stage.