Identification, Characterization, and Acoustic Experience

Several lines of prospective longitudinal research explore the multiple factors that contribute to DLDs and the particular strategies that might facilitate early acoustic experiences that contribute to the best possible outcomes for all children regardless of risk status. Benasich and colleagues demonstrated for the first time that the ability to perform fine non-speech acoustic discriminations in early infancy is critically important to and highly predictive of later language development in typically developing children as well as children at risk for language learning disorders [e.g., 1]. These data further suggest that measures of rapid auditory processing ability can be used to identify and importantly, remediate infants at highest risk of language delay and impairment.

Specifically, we investigate the development of temporally-bounded sensory information processing (shown to be a major predictor of language impairment and dyslexia in older children), the neural substrates that support these developing abilities and the relations seen with emerging language and cognitive abilities from infancy through early childhood. Our early assessment battery (including both behavioral and electrophysiological measures) allows for evaluation of early cognitive and language development in children at familial risk for developmental disorders as well as assessment of nonverbal and/or motor-impaired children with early (or genetic) brain insult or autism spectrum disorder. 

Studies to date include those examining cognitive and language processing abilities of children with autism who are non-verbal or minimally verbal, as well as a study examining the effects of interactive experience of typically developing infants in discriminating brief or rapidly successive non-speech sounds early in life on brain organization, and how such early experience might optimize and generalize to setting up early language while impacting later language and cognitive attainment.  


  1. Benasich, A.A. & Tallal, P. (2002). Infant discrimination of rapid auditory cues predicts later language impairment. Behavioral Brain Research, 136 (1), 31-49).

  2. Musacchia, G., Ortiz-Mantilla, S., Choudhury, N., Realpe-Bonilla, T., Roesler, C., & Benasich A.A. (2017). Active auditory exposure in infancy promotes brain plasticity in Theta and Gamma oscillations. Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience, 26, 9-19.

  3. Ortiz-Mantilla, S., Realpe-Bonilla, T., & Benasich, A. (2019). Early interactive acoustic experience with non-speech generalizes to speech and confers a syllabic processing advantage at 9 months. Cerebral Cortex, 2019, 1-13.