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Speech Rhythm and Temporal Structure: A Temporal Sampling Perspective on Phonology and Dyslexia

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Over 30 years ago, Lynette Bradley and Peter Bryant proposed an important link between children’s rhyming skills, their “auditory organisation”, and how well they learned to read. Recent insights from auditory neuroscience provide a new perspective on this developmental theory. I develop an oscillatory “temporal sampling” neural framework for linking auditory processing to phonological development. I show that sensitivity to metrical (rhythmic) structure is key to developing good phonological skills, and that children with dyslexia are insensitive to metrical rhythm. Metrical structure underpins nursery rhymes as well as music. Sensitivity to metrical structure is related to basic auditory processing of the amplitude modulation structure of speech via neuronal oscillatory entrainment.


Usha Goswami FBA is Professor of Cognitive Developmental Neuroscience at the University of Cambridge and a Fellow of St John’s College, Cambridge. She is also Director of the Centre for Neuroscience in Education. Her current research examines relations between phonology and reading, with special reference to the neural oscillatory underpinnings of rhyme and rhythm. A major focus of her research is the brain basis of dyslexia and speech and language difficulties. She has received a number of career awards, including the British Psychology Society’s Spearman Medal (1992) and President’s Award (2011); the Aspen Brain Forum Senior Investigator Prize in Neuroeducation, New York Academy of Sciences; the Norman Geschwind-Rodin Prize for Dyslexia research, Sweden; and Research Fellowships from the National Academy of Education (USA), the Leverhulme Trust, and the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation (Germany).

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