Nuria Sebastian Galles

Nuria Sebastian Galles
University Pompeu Fabra | UPF · Center of Brain and Cognition (CBC)

PhD

About

182
Publications
79,657
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12,318
Citations
Additional affiliations
March 2009 - present
Universitat Pompeu Fabra
Position
  • Professor (Full)
November 1982 - February 2009
University of Barcelona
Position
  • Professor (Full)

Publications

Publications (182)
Article
Full-text available
Background Road traffic noise is a prevalent and known health hazard. However, little is known yet about its effect on children’s cognition. We aimed to study the association between exposure to road traffic noise and the development of working memory and attention in primary school children, considering school-outdoor and school-indoor annual aver...
Article
The present study investigates the precursors of representations of phonemes in 4.5‐month‐olds. The emergence of phonemes has been mainly studied within the framework of perceptual narrowing, that is, infants tuning to their native language and losing sensitivity to non‐native speech. One of the mechanisms behind this phenomenon is distributional l...
Article
Full-text available
Since there are no systematic pauses delimiting words in speech, the problem of word segmentation is formidable even for monolingual infants. We use computational modeling to assess whether word segmentation is substantially harder in a bilingual than a monolingual setting. Seven algorithms representing different cognitive approaches to segmentatio...
Preprint
Since there are no systematic pauses delimiting words in speech, the problem of word segmentation is formidable even for monolingual infants. We use computational modeling to assess whether word segmentation is substantially harder in a bilingual than a monolingual setting. Seven algorithms representing different cognitive approaches to segmentatio...
Preprint
Syllables are the building blocks of early language acquisition. From birth onwards, infants preferentially segment, process and represent the speech into syllabic units, raising the question of what type of computations infants are able to perform on these perceptual units. Syllables are abstract phonological units structured in a way that allows...
Article
Albert Costa was a dear friend and colleague who died young but accomplished much. We provide a brief sketch of his scientific contributions to the field of psycholinguistics and bilingualism. The articles included in the special issue are then presented along three research topics developed by Albert Costa in his own career: Lexical access in bili...
Article
Full-text available
Background: Adolescence, when the most complex behaviors are refined to adult sophistication, represents a major window of opportunity and vulnerability for neuropsychological development. To support and protect this complex and active brain growth, different nutritional components considered essential need to be acquired from the diet. For instanc...
Article
Epidemiological studies mostly focus on single environmental exposures. This study aims to systematically assess associations between a wide range of prenatal and childhood environmental exposures and cognition. The study sample included data of 1,298 mother-child pairs, children were 6-11 years-old, from six European birth cohorts. We measured 87...
Article
Full-text available
Social hierarchies are ubiquitous in all human relations since birth, but little is known about how they emerge during infancy. Previous studies have shown that infants can represent hierarchical relationships when they arise from the physical superiority of one agent over the other, but humans have the capacity to allocate social status in others...
Article
Infants can discriminate languages that belong to different rhythmic classes at birth. The ability to perform within-class discrimination emerges around the fifth month of life. The cues that infants use to discriminate between prosodically close languages remain elusive. Segmental information could be a potential cue, since infants notice vowel mi...
Article
How different is the process of language learning in infants exposed to two languages from birth? Not so long ago, the available evidence pointed to a delay in language learning in bilinguals and suggested differences in several linguistic aspects between monolinguals and bilinguals. At present, the bulk of studies indicates the existence of specif...
Article
Determining the meanings of words requires language learners to attend to what other people say. However, it behooves a young language learner to simultaneously encode relevant non‐verbal cues, for example, by following the direction of their eye gaze. Sensitivity to cues such as eye gaze might be particularly important for bilingual infants, as th...
Article
Interpreting and predicting direction of preference in infant research has been a thorny issue for decades. Several factors have been proposed to account for familiarity versus novelty preferences, including age, length of exposure, and task complexity. The current study explores an additional dimension: experience with the experimental paradigm. W...
Article
Infants expect native and non-native speech to communicate, i.e. to transfer information between third-parties. Here, we explored if infants understand that communication depends on the use of shared conventional systems (e.g. speaking the same language), and if linguistic input (monolingual vs. bilingual) influences infants' expectations about who...
Article
Two separate research lines have shown that (1) infants expect agents to move efficiently toward goal states and that (2) infants navigate the social world selectively, preferring some individuals to others and attributing social preferences to others’ agents. Here, we studied how the expectation of efficient actions influences infants’ looking pre...
Chapter
According to UNESCO data, there are more individuals in the world who can communicate inmore than one language than there are individuals who are fully monolingual. Although the level of competence in the two languages may vary, bilingualism is clearly not an exceptional circumstance, but is widespread. Bilingualism tends to be considered a homogen...
Preprint
Full-text available
Interpreting and predicting direction of preference in infant behavioral research has been a thorny issue for decades. Several factors have been proposed to account for familiarity and novelty preferences in habituation and familiarization studies, including infant age, length of exposure and task complexity. The current study explores an additiona...
Article
Across cultures, adults produce infant-directed speech (IDS) when addressing infants. We explored whether infants expect IDS to be directed at infants and adult-directed speech (ADS) to adults. Infants from Spain and Turkey (12-15 months) watched animated videos with geometric figures, where one adult figure talked to an infant or another adult fig...
Article
Background: There is a need to test the fetal programming theoretical framework in nutritional epidemiology. We evaluated whether maternal seafood intake during pregnancy was associated with 8-year-old attention outcomes after adjusting for previous child seafood intake and cognitive function. We also explored effect modification by several single...
Article
This chapter reviews the evidence accounting for individual differences in second language (L2) processing. It presents an overview of how certain factors relating to L2 input variability affect individual differences and discusses current knowledge of the critical period hypothesis, a core debate in explaining individual differences in non‐native...
Article
Our environment is full of statistical regularities, and we are attuned to learn about these regularities by employing Statistical Learning (SL), a domain-general ability that enables the implicit detection of probabilistic regularities in our surrounding environment. The role of brain connectivity on SL has been previously explored, highlighting t...
Article
Full-text available
Language discrimination is one of the core differences between bilingual and monolingual language acquisition. Here, we investigate the earliest brain specialization induced by it. Following previous research, we hypothesize that bilingual native language discrimination is a complex process involving specific processing of the prosodic properties o...
Article
Listening to speech has been shown to activate motor regions, as measured by corticobulbar excitability. In this experiment, we explored if motor regions are also recruited during listening to non-native speech, for which we lack both sensory and motor experience. By administering Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) over the left motor cortex w...
Article
Full-text available
To probably overcome the challenge of learning two languages at the same time, infants raised in a bilingual environment pay more attention to the mouth of talking faces than same-age monolinguals. Here we examined the consequences of such preference for monolingual and bilingual infants’ ability to perceive nonspeech information coming from the ey...
Article
Current speech perception models disagree over the role of speech production in speech perception. In the current study we aimed to characterise the relationship between speech perception and production by testing a large sample of early and highly proficient Spanish-Catalan bilinguals in a variety of speech perception and production tasks. Speech...
Article
Full-text available
Background: Error monitoring, cognitive control and motor inhibition control are proposed as cognitive alterations disrupted in obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). OCD has also been associated with an increased sensitivity to social evaluations. The effect of a social simulation over electrophysiological indices of cognitive alterations in OCD wa...
Poster
Full-text available
Successful social interactions depend on the ability to track the mental states of others and predict their behavior (Theory of Mind). However, there are cues that bias people’s social perception and induce them to form certain affiliations with particular others. Based on a previous research (Southgate & Vernetti, 2014), here we investigate if the...
Article
Previous studies showed that manipulating the speech production system influenced speech perception. This influence was mediated by task difficulty, listening conditions, and attention. In the present study we investigated the specificity of a somatosensory manipulation – a spoon over the tongue – in passive listening. We measured the mismatch nega...
Article
Full-text available
Background: Neuropsychological instruments to assess cognitive trajectories during childhood in epidemiological studies are needed. This would improve neurodevelopment characterization in order to identify its potential determinants. We aimed to study whether repeated measures of n-back, a working memory task, detect developmental trajectories in...
Article
Bilingual infants show an extended period of looking at the mouth of talking faces, which provides them with additional articulatory cues that can be used to boost the challenging situation of learning two languages (Pons, Bosch & Lewkowicz, 2015). However, the eye region also provides fundamental cues for emotion perception and recognition, as wel...
Article
Full-text available
OPEN ACCESS http://journal.frontiersin.org/article/10.3389/fpsyg.2016.00133/full In the present study, we investigate how early and late L2 learners process L2 grammatical traits that are either present or absent in their native language (L1). Thirteen early (AoA = 4 years old) and 13 late (AoA = 18 years old) Spanish learners of Basque performed...
Conference Paper
Full-text available
In this study we investigate whether paying attention to a speaker's mouth impacts 15-and 18-month-old infants' ability to process visual information displayed in the talker's eyes or mouth region. Our results showed that both monolingual and bilingual 15 month-olds could detect the apparition of visual information appearing in the eyes/mouth regio...
Article
Infants show attentional biases for certain individuals over others based on various cues. However, the role of these biases in shaping infants' preferences and learning is not clear. This study asked whether infants' preference for native speakers (Kinzler, Dupoux, & Spelke, 2007) would modulate their preferences for tunes. After getting equal exp...
Article
Full-text available
Social hierarchy is an ubiquitous principle of social organization across animal species. Although some progress has been made in our understanding of how humans infer hierarchical identity, the neuroanatomical basis for perceiving key social dimensions of others remains unexplored. Here, we combined event-related potentials and structural MRI to r...
Article
Full-text available
People differ in their ability to perceive second language (L2) sounds. In early bilinguals the variability in learning L2 phonemes stems from speech-specific capabilities (Díaz, Baus, Escera, Costa & Sebastián-Gallés, 2008). The present study addresses whether speech-specific capabilities similarly explain variability in late bilinguals. Event-rel...
Article
Full-text available
The present investigation seeks to determine whether and under what circumstances can adult bilinguals deploy segmentation strategies characteristic of their two languages, or of their dominant language. To that end, we inquired whether the context language employed during the segmentation experiment (i.e., the language in which participants receiv...
Article
Full-text available
Air pollution is a suspected developmental neurotoxicant. Many schools are located in close proximity to busy roads, and traffic air pollution peaks when children are at school. We aimed to assess whether exposure of children in primary school to traffic-related air pollutants is associated with impaired cognitive development. We conducted a prospe...
Article
Full-text available
Bilingual advantages in memory flexibility, indexed using a memory generalization task, have been reported (Brito & Barr, 2012; 2014), and the present study examines what factors may influence memory performance. The first experiment examines the role of language similarity; bilingual 18-month-old infants exposed to two similar languages (Spanish-C...
Article
Full-text available
Individual differences in second language (L2) phoneme perception (within the normal population) have been related to speech perception abilities, also observed in the native language, in studies assessing the electrophysiological response mismatch negativity (MMN). Here, we investigate the brain oscillatory dynamics in the theta band, the spectral...
Article
Full-text available
Computerized neuropsychological tests offered several advantages for large epidemiological studies to assess child neuropsychological development. We aimed to evaluate the psychometric properties and criterion validity of 2 computerized tests (n-back and attentional network task [ANT]) used to assess the working memory and attention function, respe...
Article
The ability to speak two languages often marvels monolinguals, although bilinguals report no difficulties in achieving this feat. Here, we examine how learning and using two languages affect language acquisition and processing as well as various aspects of cognition. We do so by addressing three main questions. First, how do infants who are exposed...
Article
Full-text available
Adults as well as infants have the capacity to discriminate languages based on visual speech alone. Here, we investigated whether adults' ability to discriminate languages based on visual speech cues is influenced by the age of language acquisition. Adult participants who had all learned English (as a first or second language) but did not speak Fre...
Article
Full-text available
One universal feature of human languages is the division between grammatical functors and content words. From a learnability point of view, functors might provide entry points or anchors into the syntactic structure of utterances due to their high frequency. Despite its potentially universal scope, this hypothesis has not yet been tested on typolog...
Article
Full-text available
So far, it was unclear if social hierarchy could influence sensory or perceptual cognitive processes. We evaluated the effects of social hierarchy on these processes using a basic visual perceptual decision task. We constructed a social hierarchy where participants performed the perceptual task separately with two covertly simulated players (superi...
Article
Full-text available
Can learning capacity of the human brain be predicted from initial spontaneous functional connectivity (FC) between brain areas involved in a task? We combined task-related functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and resting-state fMRI (rs-fMRI) before and after training with a Hindi dental-retroflex nonnative contrast. Previous fMRI results w...
Article
Full-text available
Morphology of the human brain predicts the speed at which individuals learn to distinguish novel foreign speech sounds after laboratory training. However, little is known about the neuroanatomical basis of individual differences in speech perception when a second language (L2) has been learned in natural environments for extended periods of time. I...
Article
A new study reports interesting results concerning the way in which monolingual and bilingual toddlers cope with conflicting information regarding the names of objects. The study used a novel approach that combines electrophysiological recordings (event-related potentials) and changes in pupil size, opening new ways to explore early human developme...
Article
Full-text available
This article introduces EsPal: a Web-accessible repository containing a comprehensive set of properties of Spanish words. EsPal is based on an extensible set of data sources, beginning with a 300 million token written database and a 460 million token subtitle database. Properties available include word frequency, orthographic structure and neighbor...
Chapter
Speech perception refers to the process whereby acoustic linguistic information is interpreted and given a meaning. It proceeds through a series of stages in which acoustic cues are extracted and stored in sensory memory and then mapped onto linguistic information. Crucially, the relevance of these acoustic cues varies across languages in a very im...
Article
Previous research shows that social aspects can affect high level neural processing. Until now it was unclear if social aspects such as hierarchical rank could influence sensory/ perceptual cognitive processes in primary areas. We evaluated the effects of social comparisons with members of a hierarchy using a basic visual task, which is a priori un...
Article
Full-text available
Two studies (Golestani et al., 2007; Wong et al., 2008) have reported a positive correlation between the ability to perceive foreign speech sounds and the volume of Heschl's gyrus (HG), the structure that houses the auditory cortex. More precisely, participants with larger left Heschl's gyri learned consonantal or tonal contrasts faster than those...
Article
Full-text available
In the process of language learning, individuals must acquire different types of linguistic knowledge, such as the sounds of the language (phonemes), how these may be combined to form words (phonotactics), and morphological rules. Early and late bilinguals tend to perform like natives on second language phonological tasks that involve pre-lexical p...
Article
The origins of the bilingual advantage in various cognitive tasks are largely unknown. We tested the hypothesis that bilinguals' early capacities to track their native languages separately and learn about the properties of each may be at the origin of such differences. Spanish-Catalan bilingual and Spanish or Catalan monolingual infants watched sil...
Article
Full-text available
Languages differ in the constitution of their phonemic repertoire and in the relative distinctiveness of phonemes within the repertoire. In the present study, we asked whether such differences constrain spoken-word recognition, via two word reconstruction experiments, in which listeners turned nonwords into real words by changing single sounds. The...
Chapter
IntroductionLexical access in speech production: representations, processes and variablesLexical access in speech production in Spanish in bilingual contextsLanguage control in bilingual contexts (Spanish as L1 and L2): evidence from languageswitching tasksLearning Spanish in an immersion contextConclusions References
Article
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 Cat...
Article
A full description of the language faculty requires uncovering both the universal characteristics of the language system and the modulations imposed by language specific properties. This second requirement can only be achieved by conducting cross-linguistic research. This article reviews some of the recent research conducted in the field of languag...
Article
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 & Mol...
Article
Much research has explored the extent to which statistical computations account for the extraction of linguistic information. However, it remains to be studied how language-specific constraints are imposed over these computations. In the present study we investigated if the violation of a word-forming rule in Catalan (the presence of more than one...
Article
The main objective of this article is to provide new evidence regarding the impact of bilingualism on the attentional system. We approach this goal by assessing the effects of bilingualism on the executive and orienting networks of attention. In Experiment 1, we compared young bilingual and monolingual adults in a numerical version of the Stroop ta...
Article
Full-text available
Studies of preverbal infants exposed to a bilingual environment have unveiled the existence of important similarities, but also significant differences in the way monolinguals-to-be and bilinguals-to-be solve the problem of language acquisition. In this paper, I review these studies and I argue that some apparent bilingual failures are the conseque...
Article
A shift from language-general to language-specific sound discrimination abilities has been largely attested in different populations of infants during the second half of the first year of life; however, data are still scarce regarding bilingual populations. Previous research with 4-, 8- and 12-month-old Catalan-Spanish bilingual infants had offered...