Publications by authors named "Ferran Pons"

28 Publications

  • Page 1 of 1

Rethinking attention in time: Expectancy violations reconcile contradictory developmental evidence.

J Exp Child Psychol 2021 Jun 15;206:105070. Epub 2021 Feb 15.

Department of Cognition, Development and Educational Psychology, University of Barcelona, 08035 Barcelona, Spain; Institute of Neurosciences, University of Barcelona, 08035 Barcelona, Spain; Cognition and Brain Plasticity Unit, Institut d'Investigació Biomèdica de Bellvitge (IDIBELL), 08908 L'Hospitalet de Llobregat, Barcelona, Spain; Institució Catalana de Recerca i Estudis Avançats (ICREA), 08010 Barcelona, Spain.

Temporal expectations critically influence perception and action. Previous research reports contradictory results in children's ability to endogenously orient attention in time as well as the developmental course. To reconcile this seemingly conflicting evidence, we put forward the hypothesis that expectancy violations-through the use of invalid trials-are the source of the mixed evidence reported in the literature. With the aim of offering new results that could reconcile previous findings, we tested a group of young children (4- to 7-year-olds), an older group (8- to 12-year-olds), and a group of adults. Temporal cues provided expectations about target onset time, and invalid trials were used such that the target appeared at the unexpected time in 25% of the trials. In both experiments, the younger children responded faster in valid trials than in invalid trials, showing that they benefited from the temporal cue. These results show that young children rely on temporal expectations to orient attention in time endogenously. Importantly, younger children exhibited greater validity effects than older children and adults, and these effects correlated positively with participants' performance in the invalid (unexpected) trials. We interpret the reduction of validity effects with age as an index of better adaptation to the invalid (unexpected) condition. By using invalid trials and testing three age groups, we demonstrate that previous findings are not inconsistent. Rather, evidence converges when considering the presence of expectancy violations that require executive control mechanisms, which develop progressively during childhood. We propose a distinction between rigid and flexible mechanisms of temporal orienting to accommodate all findings.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jecp.2020.105070DOI Listing
June 2021

Twelve-month-old infants' attention to the eyes of a talking face is associated with communication and social skills.

Infant Behav Dev 2019 02 8;54:80-84. Epub 2019 Jan 8.

Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, Northeastern University, Boston, MA, United States. Electronic address:

We investigated whether attention to a talker's eyes in 12 month-old infants is related to their communication and social abilities. We measured infant attention to a talker's eyes and mouth with a Tobii eye-tracker and examined the correlation between attention to the talker's eyes and scores on the Adaptive Behavior Questionnaire from the Bayley Scales of Infant and Toddler Development (BSID-III). Results indicated a positive relationship between eye gaze and scores on the Social and Communication subscales of the BSID-III.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.infbeh.2018.12.003DOI Listing
February 2019

Inside bilingualism: Language background modulates selective attention to a talker's mouth.

Dev Sci 2019 05 10;22(3):e12755. Epub 2018 Oct 10.

Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, Northeastern University, Boston, Massachusetts.

Previous findings indicate that bilingual Catalan/Spanish-learning infants attend more to the highly salient audiovisual redundancy cues normally available in a talker's mouth than do monolingual infants. Presumably, greater attention to such cues renders the challenge of learning two languages easier. Spanish and Catalan are, however, rhythmically and phonologically close languages. This raises the possibility that bilinguals only rely on redundant audiovisual cues when their languages are close. To test this possibility, we exposed 15-month-old and 4- to 6-year-old close-language bilinguals (Spanish/Catalan) and distant-language bilinguals (Spanish/"other") to videos of a talker uttering Spanish or Catalan (native) and English (non-native) monologues and recorded eye-gaze to the talker's eyes and mouth. At both ages, the close-language bilinguals attended more to the talker's mouth than the distant-language bilinguals. This indicates that language proximity modulates selective attention to a talker's mouth during early childhood and suggests that reliance on the greater salience of audiovisual speech cues depends on the difficulty of the speech-processing task.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/desc.12755DOI Listing
May 2019

Endogenous temporal attention in the absence of stimulus-driven cues emerges in the second year of life.

PLoS One 2017 8;12(9):e0184698. Epub 2017 Sep 8.

Department of Cognition, Development, and Educational Psychology, University of Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain.

Anticipating both where and when an object will appear is a critical ability for adaptation. Research in the temporal domain in adults indicate that dissociable mechanisms relate to endogenous attention driven by the properties of the stimulus themselves (e.g. rhythmic, sequential, or trajectory cues) and driven by symbolic cues. In infancy, we know that the capacity to endogenously orient attention progressively develops through infancy. However, the above-mentioned distinction has not yet been explored since previous studies involved stimulus-driven cues. The current study tested 12- and 15-month-olds in an adaptation of the anticipatory eye movement procedure to determine whether infants were able to anticipate a specific location and temporal interval predicted only by symbolic pre-cues. In the absence of stimulus-driven cues, results show that only 15-month-olds could show anticipatory behavior based on the temporal information provided by the symbolic cues. Distinguishing stimulus-driven expectations from those driven by symbolic cues allowed dissecting more clearly the developmental progression of temporal endogenous attention.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0184698PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5590992PMC
October 2017

Does Language Influence the Vertical Representation of Auditory Pitch and Loudness?

Iperception 2017 May-Jun;8(3):2041669517716183. Epub 2017 Jun 23.

Department of Cognition, Development and Educational Psychology, University of Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain; Fundació Sant Joan de Déu, Parc Sanitari de Sant Joan de Déu, Esplugues de Llobregat (Barcelona), Spain.

Higher frequency and louder sounds are associated with higher positions whereas lower frequency and quieter sounds are associated with lower locations. In English, "high" and "low" are used to label pitch, loudness, and spatial verticality. By contrast, different words are preferentially used, in Catalan and Spanish, for pitch (high: "agut/agudo"; low: "greu/grave") and for loudness/verticality (high: "alt/alto"; low: "baix/bajo"). Thus, English and Catalan/Spanish differ in the spatial connotations for pitch. To analyze the influence of language on these crossmodal associations, a task was conducted in which English and Spanish/Catalan speakers had to judge whether a tone was higher or lower (in pitch or loudness) than a reference tone. The response buttons were located at crossmodally congruent or incongruent positions with respect to the probe tone. Crossmodal correspondences were evidenced in both language groups. However, English speakers showed greater effects for pitch, suggesting an influence of linguistic background.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/2041669517716183DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5484432PMC
June 2017

Temporal Attention as a Scaffold for Language Development.

Front Psychol 2016 2;7:44. Epub 2016 Feb 2.

Department of Basic Psychology, University of BarcelonaBarcelona, Spain; Department of Basic Psychology, Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behavior (IR3C), University of BarcelonaBarcelona, Spain.

Language is one of the most fascinating abilities that humans possess. Infants demonstrate an amazing repertoire of linguistic abilities from very early on and reach an adult-like form incredibly fast. However, language is not acquired all at once but in an incremental fashion. In this article we propose that the attentional system may be one of the sources for this developmental trajectory in language acquisition. At birth, infants are endowed with an attentional system fully driven by salient stimuli in their environment, such as prosodic information (e.g., rhythm or pitch). Early stages of language acquisition could benefit from this readily available, stimulus-driven attention to simplify the complex speech input and allow word segmentation. At later stages of development, infants are progressively able to selectively attend to specific elements while disregarding others. This attentional ability could allow them to learn distant non-adjacent rules needed for morphosyntactic acquisition. Because non-adjacent dependencies occur at distant moments in time, learning these dependencies may require correctly orienting attention in the temporal domain. Here, we gather evidence uncovering the intimate relationship between the development of attention and language. We aim to provide a novel approach to human development, bridging together temporal attention and language acquisition.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2016.00044DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4735410PMC
February 2016

Bilingualism modulates infants' selective attention to the mouth of a talking face.

Psychol Sci 2015 Apr 12;26(4):490-8. Epub 2015 Mar 12.

Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, Northeastern University

Infants growing up in bilingual environments succeed at learning two languages. What adaptive processes enable them to master the more complex nature of bilingual input? One possibility is that bilingual infants take greater advantage of the redundancy of the audiovisual speech that they usually experience during social interactions. Thus, we investigated whether bilingual infants' need to keep languages apart increases their attention to the mouth as a source of redundant and reliable speech cues. We measured selective attention to talking faces in 4-, 8-, and 12-month-old Catalan and Spanish monolingual and bilingual infants. Monolinguals looked more at the eyes than the mouth at 4 months and more at the mouth than the eyes at 8 months in response to both native and nonnative speech, but they looked more at the mouth than the eyes at 12 months only in response to nonnative speech. In contrast, bilinguals looked equally at the eyes and mouth at 4 months, more at the mouth than the eyes at 8 months, and more at the mouth than the eyes at 12 months, and these patterns of responses were found for both native and nonnative speech at all ages. Thus, to support their dual-language acquisition processes, bilingual infants exploit the greater perceptual salience of redundant audiovisual speech cues at an earlier age and for a longer time than monolingual infants.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0956797614568320DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4398611PMC
April 2015

Nine-month-old infants are sensitive to the temporal alignment of prosodic and gesture prominences.

Infant Behav Dev 2015 Feb 2;38:126-9. Epub 2015 Feb 2.

Departament de Psicologia Bàsica, Universitat de Barcelona, Spain; Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behavior (IR3C), Barcelona, Spain.

This study investigated the sensitivity of 9-month-old infants to the alignment between prosodic and gesture prominences in pointing-speech combinations. Results revealed that the perception of prominence is multimodal and that infants are aware of the timing of gesture-speech combinations well before they can produce them.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.infbeh.2014.12.016DOI Listing
February 2015

How big is this sound? Crossmodal association between pitch and size in infants.

Infant Behav Dev 2015 Feb 21;38:77-81. Epub 2015 Jan 21.

Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour (IR3C), Barcelona, Spain; Departament de Psicologia Bàsica, Facultat de Psicologia, Universitat de Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain.

We examined 4- and 6-month-old infants' sensitivity to the perceptual association between pitch and object size. Crossmodal correspondence effects were observed in 6-month-old infants but not in younger infants, suggesting that experience and/or further maturation is needed to fully develop this crossmodal association.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.infbeh.2014.12.008DOI Listing
February 2015

Recognition of Amodal Language Identity Emerges in Infancy.

Int J Behav Dev 2013 Mar;37(2):90-94

Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour (IR3C), & Departament de Psicologia Bàsica, Facultat de Psicología. Universitat de Barcelona Pg. Vall d'Hebrón 171. 08035, Barcelona, Spain.

Audiovisual speech consists of overlapping and invariant patterns of dynamic acoustic and optic articulatory information. Research has shown that infants can perceive a variety of basic audio-visual (A-V) relations but no studies have investigated whether and when infants begin to perceive higher order A-V relations inherent in speech. Here, we asked whether and when infants become capable of recognizing amodal language identity, a critical perceptual skill that is necessary for the development of multisensory communication. Because, at a minimum, such a skill requires the ability to perceive suprasegmental auditory and visual linguistic information, we predicted that this skill would not emerge before higher-level speech processing and multisensory integration skills emerge. Consistent with this prediction, we found that recognition of the amodal identity of language emerges at 10-12 months of age but that when it emerges it is restricted to infants' native language.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0165025412467582DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3956126PMC
March 2013

Infant perception of audio-visual speech synchrony in familiar and unfamiliar fluent speech.

Acta Psychol (Amst) 2014 Jun 25;149:142-7. Epub 2014 Feb 25.

Department of Psychology & Center for Complex Systems & Brain Science, Florida Atlantic University, 777 Glades Road, Boca Raton, FL 33431, USA.

We investigated the effects of linguistic experience and language familiarity on the perception of audio-visual (A-V) synchrony in fluent speech. In Experiment 1, we tested a group of monolingual Spanish- and Catalan-learning 8-month-old infants to a video clip of a person speaking Spanish. Following habituation to the audiovisually synchronous video, infants saw and heard desynchronized clips of the same video where the audio stream now preceded the video stream by 366, 500, or 666 ms. In Experiment 2, monolingual Catalan and Spanish infants were tested with a video clip of a person speaking English. Results indicated that in both experiments, infants detected a 666 and a 500 ms asynchrony. That is, their responsiveness to A-V synchrony was the same regardless of their specific linguistic experience or familiarity with the tested language. Compared to previous results from infant studies with isolated audiovisual syllables, these results show that infants are more sensitive to A-V temporal relations inherent in fluent speech. Furthermore, the absence of a language familiarity effect on the detection of A-V speech asynchrony at eight months of age is consistent with the broad perceptual tuning usually observed in infant response to linguistic input at this age.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.actpsy.2013.12.013DOI Listing
June 2014

Short-term experience increases infants' sensitivity to audiovisual asynchrony.

Infant Behav Dev 2012 Dec 13;35(4):815-8. Epub 2012 Sep 13.

Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behavior, IR3C, Barcelona, Spain.

The present study explored the effects of short-term experience with audiovisual asynchronous stimuli in 6-month-old infants. Results revealed that, in contrast with adults (usually showing temporal recalibration under similar circumstances), a brief exposure to asynchrony increased infants' perceptual sensitivity to audiovisual synchrony.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.infbeh.2012.06.006DOI Listing
December 2012

Perception of audio-visual speech synchrony in Spanish-speaking children with and without specific language impairment.

J Child Lang 2013 Jun 9;40(3):687-700. Epub 2012 Jul 9.

Departament de Psicologia Bàsica, Facultat de Psicologia, Universitat de Barcelona and Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour (IR3C), Barcelona, Spain.

Speech perception involves the integration of auditory and visual articulatory information, and thus requires the perception of temporal synchrony between this information. There is evidence that children with specific language impairment (SLI) have difficulty with auditory speech perception but it is not known if this is also true for the integration of auditory and visual speech. Twenty Spanish-speaking children with SLI, twenty typically developing age-matched Spanish-speaking children, and twenty Spanish-speaking children matched for MLU-w participated in an eye-tracking study to investigate the perception of audiovisual speech synchrony. Results revealed that children with typical language development perceived an audiovisual asynchrony of 666 ms regardless of whether the auditory or visual speech attribute led the other one. Children with SLI only detected the 666 ms asynchrony when the auditory component preceded [corrected] the visual component. None of the groups perceived an audiovisual asynchrony of 366 ms. These results suggest that the difficulty of speech processing by children with SLI would also involve difficulties in integrating auditory and visual aspects of speech perception.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0305000912000189DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3954717PMC
June 2013

The interplay between input and initial biases: asymmetries in vowel perception during the first year of life.

Child Dev 2012 May-Jun;83(3):965-76. Epub 2012 Feb 24.

Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behavior (IR3C), and Universitat de Barcelona, Departament de Psicologia Bàsica, Facultat de Psicologia, Barcelona, Spain.

Vowels with extreme articulatory-acoustic properties act as natural referents. Infant perceptual asymmetries point to an underlying bias favoring these referent vowels. However, as language experience is gathered, distributional frequency of speech sounds could modify this initial bias. The perception of the /i/-/e/ contrast was explored in 144 Catalan- and Spanish-learning infants (2 languages with a different distribution of vowel frequency of occurrence) at 4, 6, and 12 months. The results confirmed an acoustic bias at 4 and 6 months in all infants. However, at 12 months, discrimination was not affected by the acoustic bias but by the frequency of occurrence of the vowel.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-8624.2012.01740.xDOI Listing
July 2012

The acquisition of phonetic categories in bilingual infants: new data from an anticipatory eye movement paradigm.

Dev Sci 2011 Mar;14(2):395-401

Department of Basic Psychology, University of Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain.

Contrasting results have been reported regarding the phonetic acquisition of bilinguals. A lack of discrimination has been observed for certain native contrasts in 8-month-old Catalan-Spanish bilingual infants (Bosch & Sebastián-Gallés, 2003a), though not in French-English bilingual infants (Burns, Yoshida, Hill & Werker, 2007; Sundara, Polka & Molnar, 2008). At present, the data for Catalan-Spanish bilinguals constitute an exception in the early language acquisition literature. This study contributes new findings that show that Catalan-Spanish bilingual infants do not lose the capacity to discriminate native contrasts. We used an adaptation of the anticipatory eye movement paradigm (AEM; McMurray & Aslin, 2004) to explore this question. In two experiments we tested the ability of infants from Catalan and Spanish monolingual families and from Catalan-Spanish bilingual families to discriminate a Spanish-Catalan common and a Catalan-specific vowel contrast. Results from both experiments revealed that Catalan-Spanish bilingual infants showed the same discrimination abilities as those shown by their monolingual peers, even in a phonetic contrast that had not been discriminated in previous studies. Our results demonstrate that discrimination can be observed in 8-month-old bilingual infants when tested with a measure not based on recovery of attention. The high ratio of cognates in Spanish and Catalan may underlie the reason why bilinguals failed to discriminate the native vowels when tested with the familiarization-preference procedure but succeeded with the AEM paradigm.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-7687.2010.00989.xDOI Listing
March 2011

Distributional Phonetic Learning at 10 Months of Age.

Infancy 2010 Jul 19;15(4):420-433. Epub 2010 Jan 19.

Department of Psychology The University of British Columbia.

Infant phonetic perception reorganizes in accordance with the native language by 10 months of age. One mechanism that may underlie this perceptual change is distributional learning, a statistical analysis of the distributional frequency of speech sounds. Previous distributional learning studies have tested infants of 6-8 months, an age at which native phonetic categories have not yet developed. Here, three experiments test infants of 10 months to help illuminate perceptual ability following perceptual reorganization. English-learning infants did not change discrimination in response to nonnative speech sound distributions from either a voicing distinction (Experiment 1) or a place-of-articulation distinction (Experiment 2). In Experiment 3, familiarization to the place-of-articulation distinction was doubled to increase the amount of exposure, and in this case infants began discriminating the sounds. These results extend the processes of distributional learning to a new phonetic contrast, and reveal that at 10 months of age, distributional phonetic learning remains effective, but is more difficult than before perceptual reorganization.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1532-7078.2009.00024.xDOI Listing
July 2010

Structural generalizations over consonants and vowels in 11-month-old infants.

Cognition 2010 Sep 16;116(3):361-7. Epub 2010 Jun 16.

Departament de Psicologia Bàsica, Universitat de Barcelona, Spain.

Recent research has suggested consonants and vowels serve different roles during language processing. While statistical computations are preferentially made over consonants but not over vowels, simple structural generalizations are easily made over vowels but not over consonants. Nevertheless, the origins of this asymmetry are unknown. Here we tested if a lifelong experience with language is necessary for vowels to become the preferred target for structural generalizations. We presented 11-month-old infants with a series of CVCVCV nonsense words in which all vowels were arranged according to an AAB rule (first and second vowels were the same, while the third vowel was different). During the test, we presented infants with new words whose vowels either followed or not, the aforementioned rule. We found that infants readily generalized this rule when implemented over the vowels. However, when the same rule was implemented over the consonants, infants could not generalize it to new instances. These results parallel those found with adult participants and demonstrate that several years of experience learning a language are not necessary for functional asymmetries between consonants and vowels to appear.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cognition.2010.05.013DOI Listing
September 2010

Clinical applications of geometrical field matching in radiotherapy based on a new analytical solution.

Med Dosim 2011 26;36(2):160-5. Epub 2010 May 26.

Department of Medical Physics, Hospital de Sant Joan de Reus, Tarragona, Spain.

A new analytical formalism has been published recently that provides all the parameters necessary for geometrical field matching in radiotherapy. The present work applies the general expressions for craniospinal irradiation, breast irradiation with a supraclavicular half-field, and breast irradiation with a supraclavicular full-field. We also explore the formalism as a tool to analyze and compare different techniques. Field matching is achieved by imposing both parallelism and coincidence between the side planes of adjacent fields. The rotation angles and either the field aperture for a certain isocenter position or the isocenter coordinates for a given field aperture are supplied. All of the already known exact solutions are reproduced. New expressions for the field aperture and for the isocenter coordinates, which were not previously available, are also computed. If tangential fields at a fixed source-to-skin distance are used together with a supraclavicular full-field, different apertures for each tangential field are required to achieve a correct match. If an isocentric technique for the tangential fields or a supraclavicular half-field is used, this complication is avoided. The breast technique with the supraclavicular half-field is recommended, because it presents several advantages with respect to the supraclavicular full-field. This formalism provides a useful tool in cases where matching of adjacent fields is necessary.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.meddos.2010.02.008DOI Listing
September 2011

Stress Pattern Preference in Spanish-Learning Infants: The Role of Syllable Weight.

Infancy 2010 May 8;15(3):223-245. Epub 2010 Jan 8.

Departament de Psicologia Bàsica, Facultat de Psicologia Universitat de Barcelona.

As a result of exposure, infants acquire biases that conform to the rhythmic properties of their native language. Previous lexical stress preference studies have shown that English- and German-, but not French-learning infants, show a bias toward trochaic words. The present study explores Spanish-learning infants' lexical stress preferential patterns and the role of syllable weight at 9 months of age. Spanish is a syllable-timed language with no vowel reduction and variable stress. Around 50% of the word types in Spanish are disyllabic, with a superior proportion of trochees than iambs (60% and 40%, respectively). Experiment 1 with CV.CV pseudo-words failed to reveal a clear trochaic bias in 9-month-old Spanish-learning infants. However, when preference was explored with items containing a heavy syllable (CVC.CV and CV.CVC, respectively), both a trochaic (Experiment 2) and an iambic preference (Experiment 3) could be elicited. These results suggest that knowledge about the close and highly regular link between heavy syllables and stress assignment in Spanish can be easily acquired and determines infants' preference at 9 months of age, while for CV.CV items, the trochaic bias appears to be weak. Our results broaden the current knowledge on the factors that determine the emergence of rhythmic biases.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1532-7078.2009.00016.xDOI Listing
May 2010

Mortality and cause of death in patients with heart failure: findings at a specialist multidisciplinary heart failure unit.

Rev Esp Cardiol 2010 Mar;63(3):303-14

Unitat d'Insuficiència Cardíaca, Hospital Universitari Germans Trias i Pujol, Badalona, Barcelona, Spain.

Introduction And Objectives: Heart failure mortality is similar to or even higher than that due to various cancers. It is usually associated with disease progression, though sudden death has also been reported as a frequent cause of mortality. The objectives of this study were to investigate mortality and its causes in outpatients with heart failure of different etiologies who were treated in a specialist multidisciplinary unit, and to identify associated factors.

Methods: The follow-up cohort study (median duration 36 months) involved 960 patients (70.9% male; median age 69 years; ejection fraction 31%; and the majority had an ischemic etiology and were in functional class II or III).

Results: Overall, 351 deaths (36.5%) occurred: 230 due to cardiovascular causes (65.5%), mainly heart failure (33.2%) and sudden death (16%); 94 due to non-cardiovascular causes (26.8%), mainly malignancies (10.5%) and septic processes (6.8%); and 27 (7.7%) due to unknown causes. Mortality was independently associated with age, sex, functional class, ejection fraction, time since symptom onset, ischemic etiology, diabetes, creatinine clearance rate, peripheral vascular disease, fragility, and the absence of treatment with an angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitor or angiotensin-II receptor blocker, beta-blockers, statins or antiplatelet agents. The principal factor associated with cardiovascular death was an ischemic etiology. No factor studied clearly predicted sudden death.

Conclusions: Even though mortality in patients treated at a specialist heart failure unit was not low, a quarter died from non-cardiovascular causes. The principal factor associated with cardiovascular death was an ischemic etiology. Only 5.8% of the study population experienced sudden death.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/s1885-5857(10)70063-3DOI Listing
March 2010

Language-specific stress perception by 9-month-old French and Spanish infants.

Dev Sci 2009 Nov;12(6):914-9

Laboratoire de Sciences Cognitives et Psycholinguistique, Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, Département d'Etudes Cognitives-Ecole Normale Supérieure, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, Paris, France.

During the first year of life, infants begin to have difficulties perceiving non-native vowel and consonant contrasts, thus adapting their perception to the phonetic categories of the target language. In this paper, we examine the perception of a non-segmental feature, i.e. stress. Previous research with adults has shown that speakers of French (a language with fixed stress) have great difficulties in perceiving stress contrasts (Dupoux, Pallier, Sebastián & Mehler, 1997), whereas speakers of Spanish (a language with lexically contrastive stress) perceive these contrasts as accurately as segmental contrasts. We show that language-specific differences in the perception of stress likewise arise during the first year of life. Specifically, 9-month-old Spanish infants successfully distinguish between stress-initial and stress-final pseudo-words, while French infants of this age show no sign of discrimination. In a second experiment using multiple tokens of a single pseudo-word, French infants of the same age successfully discriminate between the two stress patterns, showing that they are able to perceive the acoustic correlates of stress. Their failure to discriminate stress patterns in the first experiment thus reflects an inability to process stress at an abstract, phonological level.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-7687.2009.00835.xDOI Listing
November 2009

Narrowing of intersensory speech perception in infancy.

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 2009 Jun 17;106(26):10598-602. Epub 2009 Jun 17.

Departament de Psicologia Bàsica, Universitat de Barcelona, 08035 Barcelona, Spain.

The conventional view is that perceptual/cognitive development is an incremental process of acquisition. Several striking findings have revealed, however, that the sensitivity to non-native languages, faces, vocalizations, and music that is present early in life declines as infants acquire experience with native perceptual inputs. In the language domain, the decline in sensitivity is reflected in a process of perceptual narrowing that is thought to play a critical role during the acquisition of a native-language phonological system. Here, we provide evidence that such a decline also occurs in infant response to multisensory speech. We found that infant intersensory response to a non-native phonetic contrast narrows between 6 and 11 months of age, suggesting that the perceptual system becomes increasingly more tuned to key native-language audiovisual correspondences. Our findings lend support to the notion that perceptual narrowing is a domain-general as well as a pan-sensory developmental process.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.0904134106DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2705579PMC
June 2009

Perception of vowel length by Japanese- and English-learning infants.

Dev Psychol 2009 Jan;45(1):236-47

NTT Communication Science Laboratories, NTT Corporation, Japan.

This study investigated vowel length discrimination in infants from 2 language backgrounds, Japanese and English, in which vowel length is either phonemic or nonphonemic. Experiment 1 revealed that English 18-month-olds discriminate short and long vowels although vowel length is not phonemically contrastive in English. Experiments 2 and 3 revealed that Japanese 18-month-olds also discriminate the pairs but in an asymmetric manner: They detected only the change from long to short vowel, but not the change in the opposite direction, although English infants in Experiment 1 detected the change in both directions. Experiment 4 tested Japanese 10-month-olds and revealed a symmetric pattern of discrimination similar to that of English 18-month-olds. Experiment 5 revealed that native adult Japanese speakers, unlike Japanese 18-month-old infants who are presumably still developing phonological perception, ultimately acquire a symmetrical discrimination pattern for the vowel contrasts. Taken together, our findings suggest that English 18-month-olds and Japanese 10-month-olds perceive vowel length using simple acoustic?phonetic cues, whereas Japanese 18-month-olds perceive it under the influence of the emerging native phonology, which leads to a transient asymmetric pattern in perception.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/a0014043DOI Listing
January 2009

E-cadherin controls beta-catenin and NF-kappaB transcriptional activity in mesenchymal gene expression.

J Cell Sci 2008 Jul;121(Pt 13):2224-34

Unitat de Biofísica-CEB, Departament de Bioquímica i Biologia Molecular, Facultat de Medicina, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, E-08193 Bellaterra, Spain.

E-cadherin and its transcriptional repressor Snail1 (Snai1) are two factors that control epithelial phenotype. Expression of Snail1 promotes the conversion of epithelial cells to mesenchymal cells, and occurs concomitantly with the downregulation of E-cadherin and the upregulation of expression of mesenchymal genes such as those encoding fibronectin and LEF1. We studied the molecular mechanism controlling the expression of these genes in mesenchymal cells. Forced expression of E-cadherin strongly downregulated fibronectin and LEF1 RNA levels, indicating that E-cadherin-sensitive factors are involved in the transcription of these genes. E-cadherin overexpression decreased the transcriptional activity of the fibronectin promoter and reduced the interaction of beta-catenin and NF-kappaB with this promoter. Similar to beta-catenin, NF-kappaB was found, by co-immunoprecipitation and pull-down assays, to be associated with E-cadherin and other cell-adhesion components. Interaction of the NF-kappaB p65 subunit with E-cadherin or beta-catenin was reduced when adherens junctions were disrupted by K-ras overexpression or by E-cadherin depletion using siRNA. These conditions did not affect the association of p65 with the NF-kappaB inhibitor IkappaBalpha. The functional significance of these results was stressed by the stimulation of NF-kappaB transcriptional activity, both basal and TNF-alpha-stimulated, induced by an E-cadherin siRNA. Therefore, these results demonstrate that E-cadherin not only controls the transcriptional activity of beta-catenin but also that of NF-kappaB. They indicate too that binding of this latter factor to the adherens junctional complex prevents the transcription of mesenchymal genes.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1242/jcs.021667DOI Listing
July 2008

Unsupervised learning of vowel categories from infant-directed speech.

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 2007 Aug 30;104(33):13273-8. Epub 2007 Jul 30.

Department of Psychology, Stanford University, Jordan Hall Building 420, Stanford, CA 94305, USA.

Infants rapidly learn the sound categories of their native language, even though they do not receive explicit or focused training. Recent research suggests that this learning is due to infants' sensitivity to the distribution of speech sounds and that infant-directed speech contains the distributional information needed to form native-language vowel categories. An algorithm, based on Expectation-Maximization, is presented here for learning the categories from a sequence of vowel tokens without (i) receiving any category information with each vowel token, (ii) knowing in advance the number of categories to learn, or (iii) having access to the entire data ensemble. When exposed to vowel tokens drawn from either English or Japanese infant-directed speech, the algorithm successfully discovered the language-specific vowel categories (/I, i, epsilon, e/ for English, /I, i, e, e/ for Japanese). A nonparametric version of the algorithm, closely related to neural network models based on topographic representation and competitive Hebbian learning, also was able to discover the vowel categories, albeit somewhat less reliably. These results reinforce the proposal that native-language speech categories are acquired through distributional learning and that such learning may be instantiated in a biologically plausible manner.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.0705369104DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1934922PMC
August 2007

Infant-directed speech supports phonetic category learning in English and Japanese.

Cognition 2007 Apr 16;103(1):147-62. Epub 2006 May 16.

Department of Psychology, The University of British Columbia, 2136 West Mall, Vancouver, BC, Canada V6T 1Z4.

Across the first year of life, infants show decreased sensitivity to phonetic differences not used in the native language [Werker, J. F., & Tees, R. C. (1984). Cross-language speech perception: evidence for perceptual reorganization during the first year of life. Infant Behaviour and Development, 7, 49-63]. In an artificial language learning manipulation, Maye, Werker, and Gerken [Maye, J., Werker, J. F., & Gerken, L. (2002). Infant sensitivity to distributional information can affect phonetic discrimination. Cognition, 82(3), B101-B111] found that infants change their speech sound categories as a function of the distributional properties of the input. For such a distributional learning mechanism to be functional, however, it is essential that the input speech contain distributional cues to support such perceptual learning. To test this, we recorded Japanese and English mothers teaching words to their infants. Acoustic analyses revealed language-specific differences in the distributions of the cues used by mothers (or cues present in the input) to distinguish the vowels. The robust availability of these cues in maternal speech adds support to the hypothesis that distributional learning is an important mechanism whereby infants establish native language phonetic categories.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cognition.2006.03.006DOI Listing
April 2007

The effects of distributional learning on rats' sensitivity to phonetic information.

Authors:
Ferran Pons

J Exp Psychol Anim Behav Process 2006 Jan;32(1):97-101

Grup de Recercaen Neurociéncia Cognitiva, Parc Científic de Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain.

During the first year of life, infants show decreased sensitivity to phonetic differences not used in their native language and increased sensitivity to the differences that are used. It has been shown that this change in speech perception is a function of the distributional properties of the input. The present study explores whether the mechanism responsible for the developmental changes regarding the organization of phonetic categories is a general mechanism shared with other animals. The results demonstrate that the distributional exposure to a phonetic continuum affects the subsequent discrimination of these phonemes in rats, indicating that the ability to use distributional cues to change the phonetic category structure extends beyond humans.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/0097-7403.32.1.97DOI Listing
January 2006