Studies on music and language processing and production have shown both trait-like and state-like evidence for a rhythm-grammar link. Not only are rhythm perception abilities and grammar skills associated in both typical and atypical populations, but the auditory presentation of rhythmic stimuli can also affect subsequent receptive grammar task performance (Chern et al., 2018). These results may be related to the brain’s ability to entrain to auditory stimuli. However, it is unclear whether this ability also modulates the short-term rhythmic priming effects (RPE) on syntax production. To investigate whether differences in neural entrainment to rhythmic stimuli are associated with individual differences in RPE on grammar production, 20 typically developing children (ages 5-8 years) are asked to listen to rhythmically regular or irregular primes, and then complete a conversational language sample (a more ecologically valid measure of grammar production than standardized tests). Participants are screened to rule out hearing loss, intellectual disability, and language impairment through standardized assessments of receptive and expressive language skills. Complex syntax production after the rhythmic primes is elicited through conversational prompts (see Hadley, 1998) and transcribed in SALT (Miller & Iglesias, 2012). Grammar complexity is analyzed both in terms of clausal density and of percentage of correct clause units (see Loban, 1963). Continuous electroencephalography (EEG) data are recorded while participants listen to the rhythmic tones, and individual differences are calculated using time-frequency and clustering analyses, as in Lense et al. (2014). RPE on nonlinguistic abilities is measured using a control visuospatial task. Data collection is underway. We expect enhanced clausal density and increased accuracy of clause units after listening to rhythmically regular primes, especially for children showing larger brain responses to the auditory stimuli. Results may improve rhythmic treatments in children with impaired language.
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