Investigating learning processes in speech and language

Learning is a continuous process occurring in all domains. Our main functional interest is how general learning mechanisms apply to language. With regard to brain structure, our goal is to characterize cortical and subcortical components of the learning process. We study those mechanisms as well as facilitating factors such as music, social interaction, or rhythm. Additionally, we are interested in the emergence of inter-individual differences and their impact on learning. Furthermore, we test whether late language acquisition considered as re-learning (e.g., in anomic patients or second language learners) involves the same processes and neural bases as early language acquisition. For that purpose, we use behavioural as well as neuroimaging techniques (EEG, EEG-oscillations, fMRI).


The influence of music on verbal learning in healthy subjects and anomic patients 

Laura Verga

The aim of the current project is to investigate whether music can enhance the learning of new words for known concepts in healthy subjects and the re-learning of words in anomic patients. This topic is investigated in a dyadic interactive setting, to account for the effects of social interaction in language (re)learning.


Second language acquisition as a case of re-learning

Patricia Roman

Acquiring a second language implies not only the association of new tags to concepts as well as new relations between words to build sentences, but re-arrangement of connections between the pre-existing words. We explore whether this re-learning process by which we acquired a new language is tied to a general learning mechanism. Furthermore, we want to know if it is mediated by the same cerebral structures, that is, mediated by hippocampal-striatal dynamics and trade-off between the two structures.


Learning of phonotactic rules via feedback-based learning 

Iris Nikola Knierim

This project investigates the extraction of phonotactic rules based on feedback. We are mainly interested in two aspects: Firstly, what are the correlates of the learning process on a behavioral and a neuronal level? Secondly, what explains the distinct inter-individual differences that can be observed on a behavioral level? To answer those questions, we collect behavioral as well as fMRI data.


Inter-individual differences and L2 learning 

M. Paula Roncaglia-Denissen

We examine inter-individual differences, such working memory capacity (WMC), short-term memory capacity (STMC) and the capacity to extract rhythmic properties from speech. We use scores of these capacities to investigate if and how they can explain the great variance of L2 performance among late learners of a same L1.



Dr. Maren Schmidt-Kassow
Institute of Medical Psychology, Johann Wolfgang Goethe University, Frankfurt am Main, Germany

Dr. Michel Hoen
Centre de Recherche en Neurosciences de Lyon, Equipe Dynamique Cérébrale et Cogni-tion, INSERM U1028 - CNRS UMR5292

Dr. Bertram Opitz
University of the Saarland, Saarbrücken, Germany

Dr. Barbara Tillmann
Cognition Auditive et Psychoacoustique, UMR 5020, CNRS – Universite Claude Bernard - Lyon 1, France

Dr. Daniel Margulies
Max-Planck-Forschungsgruppe "Neuroanatomie und Konnektivität"; MPI for Human Cog-nitive and Brain Sciences, Leipzig, Germany



Schmidt-Kassow, M.; Roncaglia-Denissen, M. P.; Kotz, S. A.: Why pitch sensitivity matters: Event-related potential evidence of metric and syntactic violation detection among Spanish late learners of German. Frontiers in Psychology 2, 131 (2011)
Schmidt-Kassow, M.; Rothermich, K.; Schwartze, M.; Kotz, S. A.: Did you get the beat? Late proficient French-German learners extract strong-weak patterns in tonal but not in linguistic sequences. NeuroImage 54 (1), pp. 568 - 576 (2011)
Schmidt-Kassow, M.; Kulka, A.; Gunter, T. C.; Rothermich, K.; Kotz, S. A.: Exercising during learning improves vocabulary acquisition: Behavioral and ERP evidence. Neuroscience Letters 482 (1), pp. 40 - 44 (2010)
Opitz, B.; Kotz, S. A.: Ventral premotor cortex lesions disrupt learning of sequential grammatical structures. Cortex 48 (6), pp. 664 - 673 (2012)

Go to Editor View