Publications by authors named "Minna Huotilainen"

125 Publications

Repeated Parental Singing During Kangaroo Care Improved Neural Processing of Speech Sound Changes in Preterm Infants at Term Age.

Front Neurosci 2021 3;15:686027. Epub 2021 Sep 3.

Cognitive Brain Research Unit, Department of Psychology and Logopedics, Faculty of Medicine, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland.

Preterm birth carries a risk for adverse neurodevelopment. Cognitive dysfunctions, such as language disorders may manifest as atypical sound discrimination already in early infancy. As infant-directed singing has been shown to enhance language acquisition in infants, we examined whether parental singing during skin-to-skin care (kangaroo care) improves speech sound discrimination in preterm infants. Forty-five preterm infants born between 26 and 33 gestational weeks (GW) and their parents participated in this cluster-randomized controlled trial (ClinicalTrials ID IRB00003181SK). In both groups, parents conducted kangaroo care during 33-40 GW. In the singing intervention group ( = 24), a certified music therapist guided parents to sing or hum during daily kangaroo care. In the control group ( = 21), parents conducted standard kangaroo care and were not instructed to use their voices. Parents in both groups reported the duration of daily intervention. Auditory event-related potentials were recorded with electroencephalogram at term age using a multi-feature paradigm consisting of phonetic and emotional speech sound changes and a one-deviant oddball paradigm with pure tones. In the multi-feature paradigm, prominent mismatch responses (MMR) were elicited to the emotional sounds and many of the phonetic deviants in the singing intervention group and in the control group to some of the emotional and phonetic deviants. A group difference was found as the MMRs were larger in the singing intervention group, mainly due to larger MMRs being elicited to the emotional sounds, especially in females. The overall duration of the singing intervention (range 15-63 days) was positively associated with the MMR amplitudes for both phonetic and emotional stimuli in both sexes, unlike the daily singing time (range 8-120 min/day). In the oddball paradigm, MMRs for the non-speech sounds were elicited in both groups and no group differences nor connections between the singing time and the response amplitudes were found. These results imply that repeated parental singing during kangaroo care improved auditory discrimination of phonetic and emotional speech sounds in preterm infants at term age. Regular singing routines can be recommended for parents to promote the development of the auditory system and auditory processing of speech sounds in preterm infants.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fnins.2021.686027DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8446605PMC
September 2021

Mindsets and Neural Mechanisms of Automatic Reactions to Negative Feedback in Mathematics in Elementary School Students.

Front Psychol 2021 6;12:635972. Epub 2021 Aug 6.

Faculty of Educational Sciences, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland.

Neuroscientific research regarding mindsets is so far scarce, especially among children. Moreover, even though research indicates the importance of domain specificity of mindsets, this has not yet been investigated in neuroscientific studies regarding implicit beliefs. The purpose of this study was to examine general intelligence and math ability mindsets and their relations to automatic reactions to negative feedback in mathematics in the Finnish elementary school context. For this, event-related potentials of 97 elementary school students were measured during the completion of an age-appropriate math task, where the participants received performance-relevant feedback throughout the task. Higher growth mindset was marginally associated with a larger P300 response and significantly associated with a smaller later peaking negative-going waveform. Moreover, with the domain-specific experimental setting, we found a higher growth mindset regarding math ability, but not general intelligence, to be associated with these brain responses elicited by negative feedback regarding errors in math. This suggests that it might be important to address domain-specific and even academic-domain-specific beliefs in addition to general mindsets in research and practice.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2021.635972DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8377164PMC
August 2021

Auditory deviance detection and involuntary attention allocation in occupational burnout-A follow-up study.

Eur J Neurosci 2021 Aug 20. Epub 2021 Aug 20.

Faculty of Medicine, Department of Neurosciences, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland.

Here, we investigated the central auditory processing and attentional control associated with both recovery and prolongation of occupational burnout. We recorded the event-related brain potentials N1, P2, mismatch negativity (MMN) and P3a to nine changes in speech sounds and to three rarely presented emotional (happy, angry and sad) utterances from individuals with burnout (N = 16) and their matched controls (N = 12). After the 5 years follow-up, one control had acquired burnout, half (N = 8) of the burnout group had recovered, and the other half (prolonged burnout) still had burnout. The processing of acoustical changes in speech sounds was mainly intact. Prolongation of the burnout was associated with a decrease in MMN amplitude and an increase in P3a amplitude for the happy stimulus. The results suggest that, in the absence of interventions, burnout is a persistent condition, associated with alterations of attentional control, that may be amplified with the prolongation of the condition.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/ejn.15429DOI Listing
August 2021

Arcuate fasciculus architecture is associated with individual differences in pre-attentive detection of unpredicted music changes.

Neuroimage 2021 04 14;229:117759. Epub 2021 Jan 14.

Department of Cognition, Development and Education Psychology, and Institute of Neurosciences, University of Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain; Cognition and Brain Plasticity Unit, Bellvitge Biomedical Research Institute (IDIBELL). L'Hospitalet de Llobregat, Barcelona, Spain; Institució Catalana de recerca i Estudis Avançats (ICREA), Barcelona, Spain.

The mismatch negativity (MMN) is an event related brain potential (ERP) elicited by unpredicted sounds presented in a sequence of repeated auditory stimuli. The neural sources of the MMN have been previously attributed to a fronto-temporo-parietal network which crucially overlaps with the so-called auditory dorsal stream, involving inferior and middle frontal, inferior parietal, and superior and middle temporal regions. These cortical areas are structurally connected by the arcuate fasciculus (AF), a three-branch pathway supporting the feedback-feedforward loop involved in auditory-motor integration, auditory working memory, storage of acoustic templates, as well as comparison and update of those templates. Here, we characterized the individual differences in the white-matter macrostructural properties of the AF and explored their link to the electrophysiological marker of passive change detection gathered in a melodic multifeature MMN-EEG paradigm in 26 healthy young adults without musical training. Our results show that left fronto-temporal white-matter connectivity plays an important role in the pre-attentive detection of rhythm modulations within a melody. Previous studies have shown that this AF segment is also critical for language processing and learning. This strong coupling between structure and function in auditory change detection might be related to life-time linguistic (and possibly musical) exposure and experiences, as well as to timing processing specialization of the left auditory cortex. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first time in which the relationship between neurophysiological (EEG) and brain white-matter connectivity indexes using DTI-tractography are studied together. Thus, the present results, although still exploratory, add to the existing evidence on the importance of studying the constraints imposed on cognitive functions by the underlying structural connectivity.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.neuroimage.2021.117759DOI Listing
April 2021

Maternal sleep quality during pregnancy is associated with neonatal auditory ERPs.

Sci Rep 2020 04 29;10(1):7228. Epub 2020 Apr 29.

FinnBrain Birth Cohort Study, Turku Brain and Mind Center, Institute of Clinical Medicine, University of Turku, Turku, Finland.

Poor maternal sleep quality during pregnancy may act as a prenatal stress factor for the fetus and associate with neonate neurocognition, for example via fetal programming. The impacts of worsened maternal sleep on neonatal development and, more specifically on neonatal auditory brain responses, have not been studied. A total of 155 mother-neonate dyads drawn from the FinnBrain Birth Cohort Study participated in our study including maternal self-report questionnaires on sleep at gestational week 24 and an event-related potential (ERP) measurement among 1-2-day-old neonates. For sleep quality assessment, the Basic Nordic Sleep Questionnaire (BNSQ) was used and calculated scores for (1) insomnia, (2) subjective sleep loss and (3) sleepiness were formed and applied in the analyses. In the auditory ERP protocol, three emotionally uttered pseudo words (in happy, angry and sad valence) were presented among neutrally uttered pseudo words. To study the relations between prenatal maternal sleep quality and auditory emotion-related ERP responses, mixed-effects regression models were computed for early (100-200 ms) and late (300-500 ms) ERP response time-windows. All of the selected BNSQ scores were associated with neonatal ERP responses for happy and angry emotion stimuli (sleep loss and sleepiness in the early, and insomnia, sleep loss and sleepiness in the late time-window). For sad stimuli, only maternal sleep loss predicted the neonatal ERP response in the late time-window, likely because the overall ERP was weakest in the sad condition. We conclude that maternal sleep quality during pregnancy is associated with changes in neonatal auditory ERP responses.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41598-020-64160-8DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7190640PMC
April 2020

Applying stochastic spike train theory for high-accuracy human MEG/EEG.

J Neurosci Methods 2020 07 25;340:108743. Epub 2020 Apr 25.

Center for Music in the Brain, Department of Clinical Medicine, Aarhus University and Royal Academy of Music, Aarhus/Aalborg, Nørrebrogade 44, 8000 Aarhus C, Denmark; BioMag Laboratory, HUS Medical Imaging Center, University of Helsinki and Helsinki University Hospital, 00100 Helsinki, Finland; Department of Education, Psychology, Communication, University of Bari Aldo Moro, Italy.

Background: The accuracy of electroencephalography (EEG) and magnetoencephalography (MEG) in measuring neural evoked responses (ERs) is challenged by overlapping neural sources. This lack of accuracy is a severe limitation to the application of ERs to clinical diagnostics.

New Method: We here introduce a theory of stochastic neuronal spike timing probability densities for describing the large-scale spiking activity in neural assemblies, and a spike density component analysis (SCA) method for isolating specific neural sources. The method is tested in three empirical studies with 564 cases of ERs to auditory stimuli from 94 humans, each measured with 60 EEG electrodes and 306 MEG sensors, and a simulation study with 12,300 ERs.

Results: The first study showed that neural sources (but not non-encephalic artifacts) in individual averaged MEG/EEG waveforms are modelled accurately with temporal Gaussian probability density functions (median 99.7 %-99.9 % variance explained). The following studies confirmed that SCA can isolate an ER, namely the mismatch negativity (MMN), and that SCA reveals inter-individual variation in MMN amplitude. Finally, SCA reduced errors by suppressing interfering sources in simulated cases.

Comparison With Existing Methods: We found that gamma and sine functions fail to adequately describe individual MEG/EEG waveforms. Also, we observed that principal component analysis (PCA) and independent component analysis (ICA) does not consistently suppress interference from overlapping brain activity in neither empirical nor simulated cases.

Conclusions: These findings suggest that the overlapping neural sources in single-subject or patient data can be more accurately separated by applying SCA in comparison to PCA and ICA.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jneumeth.2020.108743DOI Listing
July 2020

Exploring Frequency-Dependent Brain Networks from Ongoing EEG Using Spatial ICA During Music Listening.

Brain Topogr 2020 05 2;33(3):289-302. Epub 2020 Mar 2.

School of Biomedical Engineering, Faculty of Electronic and Electrical Engineering, Dalian University of Technology, Dalian, 116024, China.

Recently, exploring brain activity based on functional networks during naturalistic stimuli especially music and video represents an attractive challenge because of the low signal-to-noise ratio in collected brain data. Although most efforts focusing on exploring the listening brain have been made through functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), sensor-level electro- or magnetoencephalography (EEG/MEG) technique, little is known about how neural rhythms are involved in the brain network activity under naturalistic stimuli. This study exploited cortical oscillations through analysis of ongoing EEG and musical feature during freely listening to music. We used a data-driven method that combined music information retrieval with spatial Fourier Independent Components Analysis (spatial Fourier-ICA) to probe the interplay between the spatial profiles and the spectral patterns of the brain network emerging from music listening. Correlation analysis was performed between time courses of brain networks extracted from EEG data and musical feature time series extracted from music stimuli to derive the musical feature related oscillatory patterns in the listening brain. We found brain networks of musical feature processing were frequency-dependent. Musical feature time series, especially fluctuation centroid and key feature, were associated with an increased beta activation in the bilateral superior temporal gyrus. An increased alpha oscillation in the bilateral occipital cortex emerged during music listening, which was consistent with alpha functional suppression hypothesis in task-irrelevant regions. We also observed an increased delta-beta oscillatory activity in the prefrontal cortex associated with musical feature processing. In addition to these findings, the proposed method seems valuable for characterizing the large-scale frequency-dependent brain activity engaged in musical feature processing.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10548-020-00758-5DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7182636PMC
May 2020

Selectively Enhanced Development of Working Memory in Musically Trained Children and Adolescents.

Front Integr Neurosci 2019 6;13:62. Epub 2019 Nov 6.

Department of Psychology and Logopedics, Medicum, Faculty of Medicine, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland.

In the current longitudinal study, we investigated the development of working memory in musically trained and nontrained children and adolescents, aged 9-20. We measured working memory with the Digit Span (DS) forwards and backwards tests ( = 106) and the Trail-Making A and B (TMT-A and B; = 104) tests three times, in 2011, 2013, and 2016. We expected that musically trained participants would outperform peers with no musical training. Indeed, we found that the younger musically trained participants, in particular, outperformed their nontrained peers in the TMT-A, TMT-B and DS forwards tests. These tests all primarily require active maintenance of a rule in memory or immediate recall. In contrast, we found no group differences in the backwards test that requires manipulation and updating of information in working memory. These results suggest that musical training is more strongly associated with heightened working memory capacity and maintenance than enhanced working memory updating, especially in late childhood and early adolescence.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fnint.2019.00062DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6851266PMC
November 2019

Neural processing of changes in phonetic and emotional speech sounds and tones in preterm infants at term age.

Int J Psychophysiol 2020 02 14;148:111-118. Epub 2019 Nov 14.

CICERO Learning Network, Faculty of Educational Sciences, University of Helsinki, Finland; Cognitive Brain Research Unit, Department of Psychology and Logopedics, Faculty of Medicine, University of Helsinki, Finland.

Objective: Auditory change-detection responses provide information on sound discrimination and memory skills in infants. We examined both the automatic change-detection process and the processing of emotional information content in speech in preterm infants in comparison to full-term infants at term age.

Methods: Preterm (n = 21) and full-term infants' (n = 20) event-related potentials (ERP) were recorded at term age. A challenging multi-feature mismatch negativity (MMN) paradigm with phonetic deviants and rare emotional speech sounds (happy, sad, angry), and a simple one-deviant oddball paradigm with pure tones were used.

Results: Positive mismatch responses (MMR) were found to the emotional sounds and some of the phonetic deviants in preterm and full-term infants in the multi-feature MMN paradigm. Additionally, late positive MMRs to the phonetic deviants were elicited in the preterm group. However, no group differences to speech-sound changes were discovered. In the oddball paradigm, preterm infants had positive MMRs to the deviant change in all latency windows. Responses to non-speech sounds were larger in preterm infants in the second latency window, as well as in the first latency window at the left hemisphere electrodes (F3, C3).

Conclusions: No significant group-level differences were discovered in the neural processing of speech sounds between preterm and full-term infants at term age. Change-detection of non-speech sounds, however, may be enhanced in preterm infants at term age.

Significance: Auditory processing of speech sounds in healthy preterm infants showed similarities to full-term infants at term age. Large individual variations within the groups may reflect some underlying differences that call for further studies.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ijpsycho.2019.10.009DOI Listing
February 2020

Relationship between maternal pregnancy-related anxiety and infant brain responses to emotional speech - a pilot study.

J Affect Disord 2020 02 30;262:62-70. Epub 2019 Oct 30.

University of Turku, Institute of Clinical Medicine, Turku Brain and Mind Center, FinnBrain Birth Cohort Study, Turku, Finland; University of Turku and Turku University Hospital, Department of Psychiatry, Turku, Finland.

Background: Maternal pregnancy-related anxiety (PRA) is reportedly related to neurodevelopmental outcomes of infants. However, the relationship between maternal PRA and the processing of emotions in the infant brain has not been extensively studied with neuroimaging. The objective of the present pilot study is to investigate the relationship between maternal PRA and infant hemodynamic responses to emotional speech at two months of age.

Methods: The study sample included 19 mother-infant dyads from a general sample of a population of Caucasian mothers. Self-reported Pregnancy-Related Anxiety Questionnaire (PRAQ-R2) data was collected from mothers during pregnancy at gestational weeks (gwks) 24 (N = 19) and 34 (N = 18). When their infants were two months old, the infants' brains functional responses to emotional speech in the left fronto-temporoparietal cortex were recorded using diffuse optical tomography (DOT).

Results: Maternal PRAQ-R2 scores at gwk 24 correlated negatively with the total hemoglobin (HbT) responses to sad speech on both sides of the temporoparietal junction (Spearman's rank correlation coefficient ρ = -0.87). The correlation was significantly greater at gwk 24 than gwk 34 (ρ = -0.42).

Limitations: The field of view of the measurement did not include the right hemisphere or parts of the frontal cortex. The sample size is moderate and the mothers were relatively highly educated, thus there may be some differences between the study sample and the general population.

Conclusions: Maternal pregnancy-related anxiety may affect child brain emotion processing development. Further research is needed to understand the functional and developmental significance of the findings.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jad.2019.10.047DOI Listing
February 2020

Prenatal exposure to antiepileptic drugs and early processing of emotionally relevant sounds.

Epilepsy Behav 2019 11 13;100(Pt A):106503. Epub 2019 Sep 13.

Department of Pediatric Neurology, New Children's Hospital, University of Helsinki and Helsinki University Hospital, Finland.

Introduction: Prenatal exposure to antiepileptic drugs (AEDs) is associated with developmental compromises in verbal intelligence and social skills in childhood. Our aim was to evaluate whether a multifeature Mismatch Negativity (MMN) paradigm assessing semantic and emotional components of linguistic and emotional processing would be useful to detect possible alterations in early auditory processing of newborns with prenatal AED exposure.

Material And Methods: Data on AED exposure, pregnancy outcome, neuropsychological evaluation of the mothers, information on maternal epilepsy type, and a structured neurological examination of the newborn were collected prospectively. Blinded to AED exposure, we compared a cohort of 36 AED-exposed with 46 control newborns at the age of two weeks by measuring MMN with a multifeature paradigm with six linguistically relevant deviant sounds and three emotionally uttered sounds.

Results: Frontal responses for the emotionally uttered stimulus Happy differed significantly in the exposed newborns compared with the control newborns. In addition, responses to sounds with or without emotional component differed in newborns exposed to multiple AEDs compared with control newborns or to newborns exposed to only one AED.

Conclusions: These preliminary findings suggest that prenatal AED exposure may alter early processing of emotionally and linguistically relevant sound information.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.yebeh.2019.106503DOI Listing
November 2019

Rhythmic structure facilitates learning from auditory input in newborn infants.

Infant Behav Dev 2019 11 3;57:101346. Epub 2019 Sep 3.

Cognitive Brain Research Unit, Department of Psychology and Logopedics, Faculty of Medicine, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland; Cicero Learning, Faculty of Educational Sciences, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland.

Rhythm and metrical regularities are fundamental properties of music and poetry - and all of those are used in the interaction between infants and their parents. Music and rhythm perception have been shown to support auditory and language skills. Here we compare newborn infants' learning from a song, a nursery rhyme, and normal speech for the first time in the same study. Infants' electrophysiological brain responses revealed that the nursery rhyme condition facilitated learning from auditory input, and thus led to successful detection of deviations. These findings suggest that coincidence of prosodic cue patterns and to-be-learned items is more important than the format of the input. Overall, the present results support the view that rhythm is likely to create a template for future events, which allows auditory system to predict prospective input and thus facilitates language development.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.infbeh.2019.101346DOI Listing
November 2019

Neural Encoding of Pitch Direction Is Enhanced in Musically Trained Children and Is Related to Reading Skills.

Front Psychol 2019 24;10:1475. Epub 2019 Jul 24.

Cognitive Brain Research Unit, Faculty of Medicine, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland.

Musical training in childhood has been linked to enhanced sound encoding at different stages of the auditory processing. In the current study, we used auditory event-related potentials to investigate cortical sound processing in 9- to 15-year-old children ( = 88) with and without musical training. Specifically, we recorded the mismatch negativity (MMN) and P3a responses in an oddball paradigm consisting of standard tone pairs with ascending pitch and deviant tone pairs with descending pitch. A subsample of the children ( = 44) also completed a standardized test of reading ability. The musically trained children showed a larger P3a response to the deviant sound pairs. Furthermore, the amplitude of the P3a correlated with a pseudo-word reading test score. These results corroborate previous findings on enhanced sound encoding in musically trained children and are in line with studies suggesting that neural discrimination of spectrotemporal sound patterns is predictive of reading ability.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2019.01475DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6667629PMC
July 2019

Musical playschool activities are linked to faster auditory development during preschool-age: a longitudinal ERP study.

Sci Rep 2019 08 5;9(1):11310. Epub 2019 Aug 5.

Cognitive Brain Research Unit, Institute of Behavioural Sciences, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland.

The influence of musical experience on brain development has been mostly studied in school-aged children with formal musical training while little is known about the possible effects of less formal musical activities typical for preschool-aged children (e.g., before the age of seven). In the current study, we investigated whether the amount of musical group activities is reflected in the maturation of neural sound discrimination from toddler to preschool-age. Specifically, we recorded event-related potentials longitudinally (84 recordings from 33 children) in a mismatch negativity (MMN) paradigm to different musically relevant sound changes at ages 2-3, 4-5 and 6-7 years from children who attended a musical playschool throughout the follow-up period and children with shorter attendance to the same playschool. In the first group, we found a gradual positive to negative shift in the polarities of the mismatch responses while the latter group showed little evidence of age-related changes in neural sound discrimination. The current study indicates that the maturation of sound encoding indexed by the MMN may be more protracted than once thought and provides first longitudinal evidence that even quite informal musical group activities facilitate the development of neural sound discrimination during early childhood.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41598-019-47467-zDOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6683192PMC
August 2019

Why and how music can be used to rehabilitate and develop speech and language skills in hearing-impaired children.

Hear Res 2019 09 25;380:108-122. Epub 2019 Jun 25.

Cognitive Brain Research Unit, Department of Psychology and Logopedics, Faculty of Medicine, University of Helsinki, Finland; CICERO Learning Network, Faculty of Educational Sciences, P.O.Box 9, 00014, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland. Electronic address:

This paper presents evidence for a strong connection between the development of speech and language skills and musical activities of children and adolescents with hearing impairment and/or cochlear implants. This conclusion is partially based on findings for typically hearing children and adolescents, showing better speech and language skills in children and adolescents with musical training, and importantly, showing increases of speech and language skills in children and adolescents taking part in musical training. Further, studies of hearing-impaired children show connections between musical skills, involvement in musical hobbies, and speech and language skills. Even though the field is still lacking large-scale randomised controlled trials on the effects of musical interventions on the speech and language skills of children and adolescents with hearing impairments and cochlear implants, the current evidence seems enough to urge speech therapists, music therapists, music teachers, parents, and children and adolescents with hearing impairments and/or cochlear implants to start using music for enhancing speech and language skills. For this reason, we give our recommendations on how to use music for language skill enhancement in this group.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.heares.2019.06.003DOI Listing
September 2019

Hemodynamic responses to emotional speech in two-month-old infants imaged using diffuse optical tomography.

Sci Rep 2019 03 18;9(1):4745. Epub 2019 Mar 18.

Department of Neuroscience and Biomedical Engineering, Aalto University, Helsinki, Finland.

Emotional speech is one of the principal forms of social communication in humans. In this study, we investigated neural processing of emotional speech (happy, angry, sad and neutral) in the left hemisphere of 21 two-month-old infants using diffuse optical tomography. Reconstructed total hemoglobin (HbT) images were analysed using adaptive voxel-based clustering and region-of-interest (ROI) analysis. We found a distributed happy > neutral response within the temporo-parietal cortex, peaking in the anterior temporal cortex; a negative HbT response to emotional speech (the average of the emotional speech conditions < baseline) in the temporo-parietal cortex, neutral > angry in the anterior superior temporal sulcus (STS), happy > angry in the superior temporal gyrus and posterior superior temporal sulcus, angry < baseline in the insula, superior temporal sulcus and superior temporal gyrus and happy < baseline in the anterior insula. These results suggest that left STS is more sensitive to happy speech as compared to angry speech, indicating that it might play an important role in processing positive emotions in two-month-old infants. Furthermore, happy speech (relative to neutral) seems to elicit more activation in the temporo-parietal cortex, thereby suggesting enhanced sensitivity of temporo-parietal cortex to positive emotional stimuli at this stage of infant development.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41598-019-39993-7DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6426868PMC
March 2019

An extensive pattern of atypical neural speech-sound discrimination in newborns at risk of dyslexia.

Clin Neurophysiol 2019 05 12;130(5):634-646. Epub 2019 Feb 12.

Cognitive Brain Research Unit, Department of Psychology and Logopedics, Faculty of Medicine, P.O. Box 21, 00014 University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland.

Objective: Identifying early signs of developmental dyslexia, associated with deficient speech-sound processing, is paramount to establish early interventions. We aimed to find early speech-sound processing deficiencies in dyslexia, expecting diminished and atypically lateralized event-related potentials (ERP) and mismatch responses (MMR) in newborns at dyslexia risk.

Methods: ERPs were recorded to a pseudoword and its variants (vowel-duration, vowel-identity, and syllable-frequency changes) from 88 newborns at high or no familial risk. The response significance was tested, and group, laterality, and frontality effects were assessed with repeated-measures ANOVA.

Results: An early positive and right-lateralized ERP component was elicited by standard pseudowords in both groups, the response amplitude not differing between groups. Early negative MMRs were absent in the at-risk group, and MMRs to duration changes diminished compared to controls. MMRs to vowel changes had significant laterality × group interactions resulting from right-lateralized MMRs in controls.

Conclusions: The MMRs of high-risk infants were absent or diminished, and morphologically atypical, suggesting atypical neural speech-sound discrimination.

Significance: This atypical neural basis for speech discrimination may contribute to impaired language development, potentially leading to future reading problems.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.clinph.2019.01.019DOI Listing
May 2019

Maturation of Speech-Sound ERPs in 5-6-Year-Old Children: A Longitudinal Study.

Front Neurosci 2018 6;12:814. Epub 2018 Nov 6.

Cognitive Brain Research Unit, Faculty of Medicine, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland.

The maturation of 5-6-year-old children's auditory discrimination - indicated by the development of the auditory event-related-potentials (ERPs) - has not been previously studied in longitudinal settings. For the first time, we present here the results based on extensive dataset collected from 75 children. We followed the 5- to 6-year-olds for 20 months and measured their ERPs four times with the same multifeature paradigm with phonemic stimuli. The amplitude of the mismatch negativity (MMN) response increased during this time for vowel, vowel duration and frequency changes. Furthermore, the P3a component started to mature toward adult-like positivity for the vowel, intensity and frequency deviants and the late discriminative negativity (LDN) component decreased with age for vowel and intensity deviants. All the changes in the components seemed to happen during the second follow-up year, when Finnish children are taught letter symbols and other preliminary academic skills before going to school at the age of seven. Therefore, further studies are needed to clarify if these changes in the auditory discrimination are purely age-related or due to increasing linguistic knowledge of the children.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fnins.2018.00814DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6232289PMC
November 2018

Music playschool enhances children's linguistic skills.

Sci Rep 2018 06 8;8(1):8767. Epub 2018 Jun 8.

Cognitive Brain Research Unit, Faculty of Medicine, University of Helsinki, P.O.Box 9 FIN-00014 University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland.

Several studies have suggested that intensive musical training enhances children's linguistic skills. Such training, however, is not available to all children. We studied in a community setting whether a low-cost, weekly music playschool provided to 5-6-year-old children in kindergartens could already affect their linguistic abilities. Children (N = 66) were tested four times over two school-years with Phoneme processing and Vocabulary subtests, along with tests for Perceptual reasoning skills and Inhibitory control. We compared the development of music playschool children to their peers either attending to similarly organized dance lessons or not attending to either activity. Music playschool significantly improved the development of children's phoneme processing and vocabulary skills. No such improvements on children's scores for non-verbal reasoning and inhibition were obtained. Our data suggest that even playful group music activities - if attended to for several years - have a positive effect on pre-schoolers' linguistic skills. Therefore we promote the concept of implementing regular music playschool lessons given by professional teachers in early childhood education.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41598-018-27126-5DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5993803PMC
June 2018

Emotional Processing in the First 2 Years of Life: A Review of Near-Infrared Spectroscopy Studies.

J Neuroimaging 2018 09 8;28(5):441-454. Epub 2018 Jun 8.

FinnBrain Birth Cohort Study, Turku Brain and Mind Center, University of Turku, Turku, Finland.

Emotional stimuli processing during childhood helps us to detect salient cues in our environment and prepares us for our social life. In early childhood, the emotional valences of auditory and visual input are salient and relevant cues of social aspects of the environment, and it is of special interest to understand how exactly the processing of emotional stimuli develops. Near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS) is a noninvasive neuroimaging tool that has proven valuable in studying emotional processing in children. After conducting a systematic search of PubMed, Web of Science, and Embase databases, we examined 50 NIRS studies performed to study emotional stimuli processing in children in the first 2 years of age. We found that the majority of these studies are done in infants and the most commonly used stimuli are visual and auditory. Many of the reviewed studies suggest the involvement of bilateral temporal areas in emotional processing of visual and auditory stimuli. It is unclear which neural activation patterns reflect maturation and at what age the emotional encoding reaches those typically seen in adults. Our review provides an overview of the database on emotional processing in children up to 2 years of age. Furthermore, it demonstrates the need to include the less-studied age range of 1 to 2 years, and suggests the use of combined audio-visual stimuli and longitudinal studies for future research on emotional processing in children. Thus, NIRS might be a vital tool to study the associations between the early pattern of neural responses and socioemotional development later in life.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/jon.12529DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6175097PMC
September 2018

Planning music-based amelioration and training in infancy and childhood based on neural evidence.

Ann N Y Acad Sci 2018 May 4. Epub 2018 May 4.

Cognitive Brain Research Unit and CICERO Learning Network, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland.

Music-based amelioration and training of the developing auditory system has a long tradition, and recent neuroscientific evidence supports using music in this manner. Here, we present the available evidence showing that various music-related activities result in positive changes in brain structure and function, becoming helpful for auditory cognitive processes in everyday life situations for individuals with typical neural development and especially for individuals with hearing, learning, attention, or other deficits that may compromise auditory processing. We also compare different types of music-based training and show how their effects have been investigated with neural methods. Finally, we take a critical position on the multitude of error sources found in amelioration and training studies and on publication bias in the field. We discuss some future improvements of these issues in the field of music-based training and their potential results at the neural and behavioral levels in infants and children for the advancement of the field and for a more complete understanding of the possibilities and significance of the training.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/nyas.13655DOI Listing
May 2018

Healthy full-term infants' brain responses to emotionally and linguistically relevant sounds using a multi-feature mismatch negativity (MMN) paradigm.

Neurosci Lett 2018 03 31;670:110-115. Epub 2018 Jan 31.

Cognitive Brain Research Unit, Department of Psychology and Logopedics, Faculty of Medicine, University of Helsinki, Finland; FinnBrain Birth Cohort Study, Turku Brain and Mind Center, Institute of Clinical Medicine, University of Turku, Turku, Finland.

We evaluated the feasibility of a multi-feature mismatch negativity (MMN) paradigm in studying auditory processing of healthy newborns. The aim was to examine the automatic change-detection and processing of semantic and emotional information in speech in newborns. Brain responses of 202 healthy newborns were recorded with a multi-feature paradigm including a Finnish bi-syllabic pseudo-word/ta-ta/as a standard stimulus, six linguistically relevant deviant stimuli and three emotionally relevant stimuli (happy, sad, angry). Clear responses to emotional sounds were found already at the early latency window 100-200 ms, whereas responses to linguistically relevant minor changes and emotional stimuli at the later latency window 300-500 ms did not reach significance. Moreover, significant interaction between gender and emotional stimuli was found in the early latency window. Further studies on using multi-feature paradigms with linguistic and emotional stimuli in newborns are needed, especially those containing of follow-ups, enabling the assessment of the predictive value of early variations between subjects.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.neulet.2018.01.039DOI Listing
March 2018

Cohort Profile: The FinnBrain Birth Cohort Study (FinnBrain).

Int J Epidemiol 2018 02;47(1):15-16j

Institute of Clinical Medicine, Turku Brain and Mind Center, FinnBrain Birth Cohort Study.

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http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/ije/dyx173DOI Listing
February 2018

Phoneme processing skills are reflected in children's MMN responses.

Neuropsychologia 2017 Jul 12;101:76-84. Epub 2017 May 12.

Cognitive Brain Research Unit, Institute of Psychology and Logopedics, University of Helsinki, P.O.Box 9, FI-00014 Helsingin yliopisto, Finland; Cicero learning, Institute of Behavioural Sciences, University of Helsinki, Finland.

Phonological awareness (PA), the core contributor in phoneme processing abilities, has a link to later reading skills in children. However, the associations between PA and neural auditory discrimination are not clear. We used event-related potential (ERP) methodology and neuropsychological testing to monitor the neurocognitive basis of phonological awareness in typically developing children. We measured 5-6-year-old children's (N=70) phoneme processing, word completion and perceptual reasoning skills and compared their test results to their brain responses to phonemic changes, separately for each test. We found that children performing better in Phoneme processing test showed larger mismatch negativity (MMN) responses than children scoring lower in the same test. In contrast, no correspondence between test scores and brain responses was found for Auditory closure. Thus, the results suggest that automatic auditory change detection is linked to phoneme awareness in preschool children.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2017.05.013DOI Listing
July 2017

Enhanced Memory Consolidation Via Automatic Sound Stimulation During Non-REM Sleep.

Sleep 2017 Mar;40(3)

Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, Helsinki, Finland.

Introduction: Slow-wave sleep (SWS) slow waves and sleep spindle activity have been shown to be crucial for memory consolidation. Recently, memory consolidation has been causally facilitated in human participants via auditory stimuli phase-locked to SWS slow waves.

Aims: Here, we aimed to develop a new acoustic stimulus protocol to facilitate learning and to validate it using different memory tasks. Most importantly, the stimulation setup was automated to be applicable for ambulatory home use.

Methods: Fifteen healthy participants slept 3 nights in the laboratory. Learning was tested with 4 memory tasks (word pairs, serial finger tapping, picture recognition, and face-name association). Additional questionnaires addressed subjective sleep quality and overnight changes in mood. During the stimulus night, auditory stimuli were adjusted and targeted by an unsupervised algorithm to be phase-locked to the negative peak of slow waves in SWS. During the control night no sounds were presented.

Results: Results showed that the sound stimulation increased both slow wave (p = .002) and sleep spindle activity (p < .001). When overnight improvement of memory performance was compared between stimulus and control nights, we found a significant effect in word pair task but not in other memory tasks. The stimulation did not affect sleep structure or subjective sleep quality.

Conclusions: We showed that the memory effect of the SWS-targeted individually triggered single-sound stimulation is specific to verbal associative memory. Moreover, the ambulatory and automated sound stimulus setup was promising and allows for a broad range of potential follow-up studies in the future.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/sleep/zsx003DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5806588PMC
March 2017

Shifting of attentional set is inadequate in severe burnout: Evidence from an event-related potential study.

Int J Psychophysiol 2017 02 14;112:70-79. Epub 2016 Dec 14.

Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, P.O. Box 40, 00251 Helsinki, Finland; CICERO Learning Network, Faculty of Behavioural Sciences, University of Helsinki, Siltavuorenpenger 1-5, P.O. Box 9, FI-00014 University of Helsinki, Finland.

Individuals with prolonged occupational stress often report difficulties in concentration. Work tasks often require the ability to switch back and forth between different contexts. Here, we studied the association between job burnout and task switching by recording event-related potentials (ERPs) time-locked to stimulus onset during a task with simultaneous cue-target presentation and unpredictable switches in the task. Participants were currently working people with severe, mild, or no burnout symptoms. In all groups, task performance was substantially slower immediately after task switch than during task repetition. However, the error rates were higher in the severe burnout group than in the mild burnout and control groups. Electrophysiological data revealed an increased parietal P3 response for the switch trials relative to repetition trials. Notably, the response was smaller in amplitude in the severe burnout group than in the other groups. The results suggest that severe burnout is associated with inadequate processing when rapid shifting of attention between tasks is required resulting in less accurate performance.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ijpsycho.2016.12.004DOI Listing
February 2017

Predictive coding accelerates word recognition and learning in the early stages of language development.

Dev Sci 2017 Nov 16;20(6). Epub 2016 Oct 16.

Cognitive Brain Research Unit, Institute of Behavioural Sciences, University of Helsinki, Finland.

The ability to predict future events in the environment and learn from them is a fundamental component of adaptive behavior across species. Here we propose that inferring predictions facilitates speech processing and word learning in the early stages of language development. Twelve- and 24-month olds' electrophysiological brain responses to heard syllables are faster and more robust when the preceding word context predicts the ending of a familiar word. For unfamiliar, novel word forms, however, word-expectancy violation generates a prediction error response, the strength of which significantly correlates with children's vocabulary scores at 12 months. These results suggest that predictive coding may accelerate word recognition and support early learning of novel words, including not only the learning of heard word forms but also their mapping to meanings. Prediction error may mediate learning via attention, since infants' attention allocation to the entire learning situation in natural environments could account for the link between prediction error and the understanding of word meanings. On the whole, the present results on predictive coding support the view that principles of brain function reported across domains in humans and non-human animals apply to language and its development in the infant brain. A video abstract of this article can be viewed at: http://hy.fi/unitube/video/e1cbb495-41d8-462e-8660-0864a1abd02c. [Correction added on 27 January 2017, after first online publication: The video abstract link was added.].
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/desc.12472DOI Listing
November 2017

Infant Directed Speech Enhances Statistical Learning in Newborn Infants: An ERP Study.

PLoS One 2016 12;11(9):e0162177. Epub 2016 Sep 12.

Cognitive Brain Research Unit, Institute of Behavioural Sciences, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland.

Statistical learning and the social contexts of language addressed to infants are hypothesized to play important roles in early language development. Previous behavioral work has found that the exaggerated prosodic contours of infant-directed speech (IDS) facilitate statistical learning in 8-month-old infants. Here we examined the neural processes involved in on-line statistical learning and investigated whether the use of IDS facilitates statistical learning in sleeping newborns. Event-related potentials (ERPs) were recorded while newborns were exposed to12 pseudo-words, six spoken with exaggerated pitch contours of IDS and six spoken without exaggerated pitch contours (ADS) in ten alternating blocks. We examined whether ERP amplitudes for syllable position within a pseudo-word (word-initial vs. word-medial vs. word-final, indicating statistical word learning) and speech register (ADS vs. IDS) would interact. The ADS and IDS registers elicited similar ERP patterns for syllable position in an early 0-100 ms component but elicited different ERP effects in both the polarity and topographical distribution at 200-400 ms and 450-650 ms. These results provide the first evidence that the exaggerated pitch contours of IDS result in differences in brain activity linked to on-line statistical learning in sleeping newborns.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0162177PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5019490PMC
August 2017

Job burnout is associated with dysfunctions in brain mechanisms of voluntary and involuntary attention.

Biol Psychol 2016 05 27;117:56-66. Epub 2016 Feb 27.

Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, Topeliuksenkatu 41 b, FI-00250 Helsinki, Finland; CICERO Learning Network, Faculty of Behavioural Sciences, University of Helsinki, Siltavuorenpenger 1-5, P.O. Box 9, FI-00014 University of Helsinki, Finland.

Individuals with job burnout symptoms often report having cognitive difficulties, but related electrophysiological studies are scarce. We assessed the impact of burnout on performing a visual task with varying memory loads, and on involuntary attention switch to distractor sounds using scalp recordings of event-related potentials (ERPs). Task performance was comparable between burnout and control groups. The distractor sounds elicited a P3a response, which was reduced in the burnout group. This suggests burnout-related deficits in processing novel and potentially important events during task performance. In the burnout group, we also observed a decrease in working-memory related P3b responses over posterior scalp and increase over frontal areas. These results suggest that burnout is associated with deficits in cognitive control needed to monitor and update information in working memory. Successful task performance in burnout might require additional recruitment of anterior regions to compensate the decrement in posterior activity.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.biopsycho.2016.02.010DOI Listing
May 2016

Cognitive flexibility modulates maturation and music-training-related changes in neural sound discrimination.

Eur J Neurosci 2016 07 17;44(2):1815-25. Epub 2016 Feb 17.

Cognitive Brain Research Unit, Cognitive Science, Institute of Behavioural Sciences, University of Helsinki, PO Box 9, FI-00014, Helsinki, Finland.

Previous research has demonstrated that musicians show superior neural sound discrimination when compared to non-musicians, and that these changes emerge with accumulation of training. Our aim was to investigate whether individual differences in executive functions predict training-related changes in neural sound discrimination. We measured event-related potentials induced by sound changes coupled with tests for executive functions in musically trained and non-trained children aged 9-11 years and 13-15 years. High performance in a set-shifting task, indexing cognitive flexibility, was linked to enhanced maturation of neural sound discrimination in both musically trained and non-trained children. Specifically, well-performing musically trained children already showed large mismatch negativity (MMN) responses at a young age as well as at an older age, indicating accurate sound discrimination. In contrast, the musically trained low-performing children still showed an increase in MMN amplitude with age, suggesting that they were behind their high-performing peers in the development of sound discrimination. In the non-trained group, in turn, only the high-performing children showed evidence of an age-related increase in MMN amplitude, and the low-performing children showed a small MMN with no age-related change. These latter results suggest an advantage in MMN development also for high-performing non-trained individuals. For the P3a amplitude, there was an age-related increase only in the children who performed well in the set-shifting task, irrespective of music training, indicating enhanced attention-related processes in these children. Thus, the current study provides the first evidence that, in children, cognitive flexibility may influence age-related and training-related plasticity of neural sound discrimination.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/ejn.13176DOI Listing
July 2016
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