Salut i Psicologia

Neuroscience and language disorder

Within this line of research, we are working on the following topics:

  • The study and modulation of the neural mechanisms underlying cognitive processes through non-invasive brain stimulation techniques.
  • The study of language acquisition, learning and processing in populations with typical and pathological development.
  • The acquisition of language, phonology, gestures and pragmatics.

Specific thesis projects offered inside of this line of research include the following: 

Thesis Proposals

Researchers

Research Group

Language disorders

Language is one of the most important human abilities we learn from birth. However, there are some children that struggle in acquiring oral or written language. Most of them have differrent neurodevelopmental disorders such as Developmental Language Disorder (DLD), dyslexia or dysgraphia.
 
Technology, and particularly the use of technology to improve individuals' health and wellness, which is called Digital health, eHealth or mHealth provides a great opportunity to improve the detection, evaluation and intervention of these children. Thus, we have these research goals:
 
-Create, implement and evaluate digital solutions to improve the early detection of children with language disorders.
-Create, implement and evaluate more simply, less time-consuming and cheaper digital solutions for the assessment and diagnosis of language disorders.
-Create, implement and evaluate digital solutions to improve the treatment of children with language disorders based on neurorehabilitation and the observation of the progress with digital tools for parents, clinicians and educators.
 
We conduct experimental and clinical research using different methodologies with the collaboration of local, national and international partners.
 
 

Dr. Llorenç Barrachina Andreu

Mail:landreub@uoc.edu

GRECIL

Acquisition of phonology, gesture and pragmatics in typical and atypical populations

This line of research investigates how infants, children and adults acquire the sounds of a language. Language is mainly an oral phenomenon, and we investigate this phenomenon from a multimodal and functional perspective: we focus on how phonological abilities interact with other factors like body gestures and the development of pragmatics. Moreover, individual linguistic, cognitive, and communicative skills may influence acquisition. 

We are currently working on the following main research questions (but any project related to the acquisition of phonology, gesture, and pragmatics in typical and clinical populations is welcome): 
 
  • How speech and body gestures interact with each other in typically developing children and in children with communication or language disorders?
  • Do early phonological and gesture skills cause/trigger the development of pragmatic abilities and other future linguistic milestones?
  • How does multisensory input (acoustic, visual, tactile) contribute to the acquistion of language in specific populations? 
These research questions are answered using experimental methods such as eye-tracking, act-out tasks, or educational interventions. The PhD thesis will be carried out in collaboration with other members of the Research Group on Cognition and Language (GRECIL) at the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya, and with other national and international 
 

Dra. Núria Esteve Gibert

Mail: nesteveg@uoc.edu

GRECIL

Intervention, evidence-based practice and development of language and communication disorders in childhood.

Children with communication and language disorders require evidence-based treatments and assessments, which can be delivered by on-site and on-line (i.e., telepractice) interventions, to fully progress in their life achievements. 

Moreover, best practices in speech therapy (also called logopedia, fonoaudiología, orthophonie or logopédie) in clinical and educational settings require of effective and efficient implementation practices taking into consideration clinical expertise, best evidences (external - scientific literature; internal – data and observations) and patient perspectives. 
 
Another interest of this research line is investigating gesture, pragmatic and language development and intervention (assessment and treatment) in early age populations (new born to 6 years) with typical development and neurodevelopmental conditions, such as autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and developmental language disorder (DLD; also called specific language impairment). 
 
This research line focuses on the following general research questions:
 
  1. Which are the best assessment and treatment practices delivered on-site and on-line to improve the condition of young children with language and communication disorders? 
  2. How can we improve assessment and treatments in speech therapy by implementing evidence-based practices?
  3. How do young children with or without neurodevelopmental disorders develop gesture, pragmatic and language abilities? And which are the best ways to assess and treat gesture, pragmatic and language abilities? 
This line of research is particularly interested in the following research and clinical approaches:
 
  • Dynamic assessment; standardized assessment; screening; assessment in educational and home contexts
  • Telepractice; videofeedback; synchronous and asynchronous modalities of intervention 
  • Narrative intervention; response-to-intervention practices
  • Evidence-based practice; clinical guidelines; evidence-based implementation
  • Multimodal discourse analysis; eye-tracking technique
  • Early intervention; pragmatic assessment and treatment

Dr. Alfonso Igualada Pérez

Mail:aigualada@uoc.edu

GRECIL
 
Clinical Neuropsychology and Applied Neuroscience: brain injury
 
The Clinical Neuropsychology and Applied Neuroscience research line is focused on the study of the neural mechanisms underlying different pathologies that present an abnormal or altered brain functioning. We also focus on the use of non invasive brain stimulation techniques as a therapeutic approach to improve, stimulate and rehabilitate cognitive functions in neurodegenerative disease (mainly Alzheimer’s disease) and in acquired brain injury (traumatic brain injury and stroke).
 
 

Dra. Elena Muñoz Marrón

Mail:emunozmarr@uoc.edu

Dra. Raquel Viejo Sobera

Mail: rviejos@uoc.edu

 
 
 
Reduction of nicotine addiction through non-invasive brain stimulation techniques 
 
Nicotine addiction is often characterized by dysfunctional cognitive control, an uncontrolled reward impulse and an altered decision-making process. Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) can be used to increase self-control in habitual tobacco users, reducing anxiety caused by abstinence and giving up nicotine consumption. This technique has already been successfully used to reduce craving and tobacco consumption, but the optimal parameters to implement it as a common treatment are yet to be established. Our main goal is to improve tDCS treatment parameters used to help smoking cessation.
 
 

Dra. Raquel Viejo Sobera

Mail: rviejos@uoc.edu

Dra. Elena Muñoz Marrón

Mail:emunozmarr@uoc.edu

Cognitive NeuroLab

The effect of background music  on memory and learning in patients with cognitive decline and dementia

Several studies have provided evidence that music therapy may be useful for behavioural symptoms related to dementia, however, there is scarce evidence concerning its positive effects on cognition (Van der Steen et al., 2018). Nevertheless, recent evidence in healthy older adults indicates that exposure to music (as background) may improve performance while people are learning new information and/or retrieving stored information (see Ferreri et al.’s studies). 
 
The main aim of this research line is to investigate whether background music acts as a long-term memory enhancer in people with Alzheimer’s disease and Mild Cognitive Impairment, as being arguably the most affected cognitive ability of these two neurodegenerative diseases. 
 
Specifically, this research aims at investigating if background music: 
 
a. is a way of affording efficient strategies to bind new information to learning contexts (context-dependent memory);
b. modulates arousal and emotion and this in turn reinforces memory traces during encoding and consolidation. 
 
Musical preferences will be also explored in order to disentangle the role of individual factors in modulating music-induced effects on memory and learning. 
 
Funding: ‘The Mozart Effect on memory in patients with cognitive decline’ (PID2020-118672RB-I00, Agencia Estatal de Investigación España)
 

Marco Calabria

marcocalabria.cat
Cognitive NeuroLab

Neuropsychology of speech production and language control in bilingual individuals 

One of the remarkable abilities of bilinguals is to be able to continuously control the use of the two languages. This requires the selection and monitoring of the intended language to speak while avoiding interference of the non-selected one. The efficiency of these cognitive and linguistic abilities depends on the integrity of the underlying bilingual language control network (Calabria et al., 2018). Therefore, any brain lesion (being from neurodegenerative or cerebrovascular diseases) may affect the communication skills of bilingual speakers or result in mixing up the two languages.
 
This research lines aims at investigating:
 
a. how acquired brain damage may impair within- and between-language skills in speech production at different linguistic levels (semantics, lexicon, and phonology);
b. non-linguistic control deficits (switching, updating, and monitoring) may be associated with speech disorders.
 
Cognitive neuropsychological methodology (single-case or group studies) and psycholinguistic approaches will be employed to answer these research questions.
 

Marco Calabria

marcocalabria.cat
Cognitive NeuroLab
Neural basis of cognitive control
 
This research line is focused on the study of the involvement and functional dissociation of the dorsolateral and ventrolateral prefrontal cortices in different cognitive processes.
 
In particular, cognitive control involves the activation of two main neural systems with differentiated functions: a dorsal system, which includes the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, and a ventral system, which includes the ventrolateral prefrontal cortex.
 
This line of research aims to deepen the understanding of the dissociation and interaction of these two systems through the application of Non-Invasive Brain Stimulation Techniques (NIBS). We are particularly interested in characterizing the neural bases of three processes related to cognitive control:
 
Emotional interference on working memory
Risk-based decision-making
Reward and addiction
Numerical cognition and cognitive control
 
 
Mail: dredolar@uoc.edu
 
 
Cognitive NeuroLab

Changes and evolution of functional connectivity in brain pathologies

This line of research is focused on the study of functional changes in brain connectivity due to the progression of different neurological conditions (focusing on psychiatric disorders and neurodegenerative diseases).

We use longitudinal datasets to study how clinical changes might be related to changes in the functional connections of the brain. We use public or already collected databases and analyze them using common neuroimaging tools and machine learning methods. 
Our goal is to characterize the development of neurological conditions in order to understand their progression, prevent or alleviate them, and improve the possible treatments.
 

Dra. Raquel Viejo Sobera

Mail: rviejos@uoc.edu

Cognitive NeuroLab