Research in Speech Language Pathology

Strategic lines of research at the University of Turku Speech-Language Pathology

Research conducted at the University of Turku Speech-Language Pathology centers around two strategic lines. The first line focuses on cognitive, neural and biological underpinnings of speech and language processing and as well as its disorders. The second line examines the environmental factors that shape speech and language skills. The knowledge produced by our scientists is of pure scientific interest, but also has important societal implications. Speech and language disorders are known to be associated with negative academic, social, employment and mental health outcomes. Understanding the factors underlying these processes allows us to change our society in a way that these negative outcomes can be reduced or eliminated.

Cognitive predictors of children’s bilingual development

Our international collaboration investigates cognitive predictors of immigrant children’s first and second language abilities in Toronto Canada. This work is led by Elina Mainela-Arnold (memaar@utu.fi). The international collaborators are Ji Sook Park and Luigi Girolametto at the University of Toronto , and Carol Miller, Janet van Hell and Daniel Weiss at the Penn State Center for Language Science. This work is funded by and Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, University of Toronto Connaught Fund and Penn State Social Science Research Institute.

FinnBrain Speech and Language Substudy

FinnBrain Speech and Language Substudy examines biological and environmental factors contributing to individual differences in children’s speech and language development. One of the environmental factors of interest are effects of early life stress on children’s speech language development. This project is a collaboration with FinnBrain investigators. The director of the FinnBrain project is Hasse Karlsson and the Speech and Language Substudy is led by Elina Mainela-Arnold (memaar@utu.fi). Clinical educator Aura Yli-Savola and post doc Daniel Fellman are important contributors, as well as collaborators from Åbo Akademi, Pirkko Rautakoski and Denis Ollas. Participating children’s visits are implemented by our clinical students and several Masters’ theses are being completed in the project. We are currently looking for new doctoral students to work in this project.

Helsinki Longitudinal SLI study

We have launched in January 2013 the Helsinki Longitudinal SLI study (HelSLI) at the Department of Phoniatrics, Helsinki University Central Hospital. 3-6-year-old first-time children were invited to participate during the years 2013-2016 and, at the first stage of the study, they are followed up until they enter school at seven years of age. The second stage of the study, beginning in 2017, investigates the same children at the age of 10 years. The HelSLI investigates developmental Language Disorder (DLD) and specific language impairment (SLI) at multiple levels of analysis, that is, etiological (genetic and environmental), neural, cognitive, and behavioral. 

 

The HelSLI study consists of five sub-projects: 

  • HelSLI-genetic focuses on the role of genetic factors in developmental language difficulties. 
  • HelSLI-EEG concentrates on the brain electrophysiology and its role in DLD. 
  • HelSLI-cognitive will focus on the non-linguistic correlates of developmental language difficulties with experimental assessment and intervention methods. 
  • HelSLI-psychosocial investigates how the child’s psychological characteristics and environment influence developmental language difficulties and how DLD affects the well-being of a child. 
  • HelSLI-bilingual investigates the characteristics of DLD in monolingual versus bilingual children. 

 

The main aim of the project is to shed light on the multiple interactive risk and protective factors that affect the developing profile of DLD and how these different levels of analysis relate to traditional rehabilitation methods and experimental interventions. On a more practical level, the results of the HelSLI will enable early identification of difficulties, before the school age, and new assessment tools with normative information for the clinicians.

Language Processing in Adults (LaPA)

Language Processing in Adults (LaPA) is a project focusing on normal and pathological language processing in adults. The ultimate aim could be summarised as developing theoretically motivated, clinically possible, and functionally relevant assessment methods and intervention programs particularly for people with acquired language disorders (e.g., aphasia and Alzheimer’s disease). As language in adulthood is not a static system but may change due to various factors, we are also curious about the effects of multilingualism and possible support needed for culturally and linguistically diverse (CLD) populations. To fulfill our research aims we conduct both basic and applied research. The project is led by Dr Kati Renvall (kati.renvall@utu.fi). Currently, we have two PhD candidates (Ida Luotonen and Nana Lehtinen) and a number of undergraduate speech-pathology students working in the project. For more information on our projects, visit our homepage. Please also note that we welcome you to the next Nordic Aphasia Conference which will be held 13-15 June, 2019, at our department (for more information, see nac2019.fi)

NeuroTalk

The NeuroTalk project examines neurocognitive mechanisms that support speech and language development. The project is a collaborative effort lead by Elina Mainela-Arnold (memaar@utu.fi). Most participating children and families come from the First Steps cohort. Evoked response potentials are examined under the supervision of Eira Jansson-Verkasalo. Kurt Eggers is responsible for speech fluency evaluations. Magnetic Resonance Imaging is executed in the Turku University Hospital under the supervision of Riitta Parkkola and Virva Saunavaara. Anna Kautto is completing her doctoral theses in the project. Several Masters’ theses are being completed in the project.

Communication skills after traumatic brain injury

The aim of this study is to find out what kind of cognitive-communication disorders patients with traumatic brain injury have and how these disorders are connected with DTI (diffuse tensor imaging) measures of white matter tracts. This study is led by Marjaana Raukola-Lindblom. All participants will be evaluated by a speech-language pathologist, psychologist, and neuroradiologist (DTI). The study is carried out in collaboration with Turku Brain Injury Centre, Turku University Hospital; Terveystalo Medical Center, Turku; and City of Turku Welfare division, Psychosocial services. Also several Masters’ theses are being completed in this research area.

Latest publications

Finland (2019)

Kunnari S., Laasonen M., Smolander S.
(A3 Book chapter)