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Title: The Neural Underpinnings of Learning During Joint Book Reading
Authors: Cohen, Ariella
Advisors: Lew-Williams, Casey
Department: Neuroscience
Certificate Program: Global Health and Health Policy Program
Class Year: 2019
Abstract: Social interaction is central in facilitating early learning. Joint book reading is one example of a social learning environment and has a well-established role in early development and language learning. This study investigates the neural underpinnings of joint book reading to improve our understanding of children’s social engagement and learning. Recent work has begun to investigate the neural mechanisms that underlie representations of shared input and has reported neural coupling (inter-subject temporal correlation of activity) between individuals exposed to the same stimulus. Neural coupling has been observed between adults and infants during social interaction, and adult fMRI studies have suggested that neural coupling between a speaker and listener provides a measure of the quality of communication. However, the neural mechanisms underlying children’s learning in social contexts are unknown. Using functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS), we simultaneously recorded the neural activity of an adult experimenter and child participant (3.5-4.5 years) during joint reading of a picture book with embedded novel words. We observed synchronized neural activity during book reading both across child participants and within adult-child dyads, and we found a positive correlation between learning and neural synchronization in parietal cortex across child participants. This study’s findings suggest that children’s learning is facilitated by active engagement in a dynamic social environment.
Type of Material: Princeton University Senior Theses
Language: en
Appears in Collections:Global Health and Health Policy Program, 2017-2022
Neuroscience, 2017-2022

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