Several studies have revealed the power of the human brain to extract regularities from the speech signal through distributional learning. This implies that language learning occurs in an incidental manner and that attention plays a marginal role. But speech input is so rich and multidimensional that infants need to pinpoint the appropriate subset of dimensions to be computed. The research of Prof. Nuria Sebastián Gallés is about detecting the way the information present in the speech input is selected for computation. Under Control  studies the relationship between the mechanisms of attention, the cognitive control and the acquisition of language in early stages, underlying two critical aspects of language learning: the establishment of phonetic categories and the early acquisition of words. Combining longitudinal studies with neuroimaging experiments in adults and infants, she analyses how enhanced mechanisms of attention and cognitive control can improve the way infants learn to speak their mother tongue. She also examines how bilingual environments impact on these mechanisms in preverbal infants.



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