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Julia Uddén awarded with 5-year grant to study how the teenage brain supports development of communication skills

The language learning process does not end when the child masters vocabulary and grammar. Adolescents continue to learn how to use language effectively in different contexts. This learning process must be supported by development of the adolescent brain, but there is yet no research done on this topic. Julia Uddén aims to fill this gap, and was just awarded 5 years of funding from the Swedish Foundation for Humanities and Social Sciences to pursue this research.
Julia Uddén awarded with 5-year grant to study how the teenage brain supports development of communication skills

During language development, we must learn how to communicate effectively using the language we learned as a child. For instance, we need to learn when to be direct or outspoken, and when to choose our words with care. Much evidence points to the conclusion that these skills develop in adolescence and even young adulthood, but research on this topic is virtually absent. In addition, adolescent development of communicative behavior must somehow be supported by developmental processes in the adolescent brain, but again there is no research done. When development of effective language use is impaired, it leads to specific difficulties with communicative language.

Uddén's project builds on the idea that patients with these problems might often show delays in the aspects of brain development necessary to support communication. By adding the critical basic research on the mechanism behind these communicative disorders, the project will help put these problems on the map for a wider group of researchers and clinicians.

Communication (or ‘pragmatics’ – which is the precise term for aspects of communicative behavior used in linguistics) seems to be uniquely human. As research by Mark Dingemanse and Nick Enfield (Max Planck Institute of Psycholinguistics) shows, at least some of our pragmatic behavior is the same across the cultures of the world, or 'universal'. Now, it is time to understand its neural development. We will better understand how communication develops and evolves if we can find out how our brains develop to support these functions. This grant - the Pro Futura Scientia Program - now gives Uddén the opportunity to test adolescents of different ages on communicative tasks while imaging the brain in a MR-scanner.

brain regions comm adolescents

Uddén will study which brain regions are involved in communication in different developmental stages.

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About MPI

This is the MPI

The Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics is an institute of the German Max Planck Society. Our mission is to undertake basic research into the psychological,social and biological foundations of language. The goal is to understand how our minds and brains process language, how language interacts with other aspects of mind, and how we can learn languages of quite different types.

The institute is situated on the campus of the Radboud University. We participate in the Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour, and have particularly close ties to that institute's Centre for Cognitive Neuroimaging. We also participate in the Centre for Language Studies. A joint graduate school, the IMPRS in Language Sciences, links the Donders Institute, the CLS and the MPI.



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