Position available in the Dehaene-Lambertz team:

DOCTORAL FELLOWSHIP ON THE INFLUENCE OF READING ON SYNTACTIC ABILITIES IN 5-8-YEAR-OLD CHILDREN

Applications are invited for a doctoral position supervised by Ghislaine Dehaene-Lambertz to study syntactic abilities in 5-8-year-old children and the influence of reading on the development of these abilities using behavioral paradigms and magnetic resonance imaging (functional and structural MRI).

Although language acquisition starts from the first days of life on, syntactic abilities are developing until late childhood. In particular the comprehension of sentences in which the object crosses the subject, such as in object-Wh question and in embedded object relatives (‘‘The cow that pushed the zebra patted the sheep.’’), massively improves between 5 and 6 years of age. At the same age, children are learning to read and are progressively exposed through written texts to more complex lexicon and sentences that they should understand without the prosodic and social cues that accompanie oral exchanges. Reading also improves verbal short-term memory, metaphonology and in general attention to the elementary components of speech. Finally, teachers explicitly attract children’ attention to the syntactic properties of speech as reading in French is dependent on syntactic knowledge. For example, the ending “ent” is pronounced at the end of an adverb (“largement”) but not at the end of the verb plural form (“ils aiment”). Therefore reading acquisition might not only improve the phonological representations, a phenomenon commonly studied in the literature, but also syntactic computations. Previous MRI experiments have indeed shown an increase of activation in the planum temporale related to reading performance independently of age but also a fastest BOLD response in function of age/reading along the different linguistic nodes of the superior temporal sulcus (Monzalvo et al, 2012-2013). The goal of the thesis is thus to document the improvement in syntactic processing, indexed by an improvement in the comprehension of embedded relatives and Wh questions, and its relation with the maturation of brain structures such as the left inferior frontal region and the arcuate fasciculus, as the influence of reading on the oral language network. The tested population will be 5-6-year-old children in the last year of kindergarden (grande section) and the first year of school (CP). The lag between the academic year and the civil year allows to have groups of approximately the same age but with different academic enrolment with a follow-up along the two following years. Single-case and group studies of children with specific language impairment will also be included in collaboration with N. Friedman (University of Tel Aviv) and Hervé Glasel (Ecoles Cerene, Paris). Applicants will organize the recruitment and testing and thus should like to interact with young children, their parents and teachers. They will design the experiments and analyze the behavioral and MRI data and thus program in R, Matlab and/or Python. They can learn these skills in the lab but should not be shy with computers!

The position is in the developmental neuroimaging lab which is part of INSERM ‘Cognitive Neuroimaging Unit’ (http://www.unicog.org, director : Stanislas Dehaene) at NeuroSpin (http://www-dsv.cea.fr/en/institutes/institute-of-biomedical-imaging-i2bm/departments/neurospin-neurospin) in the greater Paris region (plateau de Saclay). NeuroSpin is a brain imaging center that houses several research labs and combines expertise in cognitive neuroscience and neuropsychology, magneto-electrophysiology, high field MR imaging and imaging data analysis. The center has child dedicated rooms and equipment.

Applications will be considered until the position is filled starting October 2017. For best consideration, please electronically submit a CV with a description of education, research experience and computer expertise, and two references to ghislaine.dehaene@cea.fr

Web site: www.unicog.org and  https://moncerveaualecole.com/

Help us investigate the singularity of the human brain!

Positions available in the Dehaene team

Cognitive Neuro-Imaging Unit, NeuroSpin, Saclay, France

3 PhD or postdoctoral positions are available at the Cognitive Neuro-Imaging Unit (www.unicog.org) located at NeuroSpin, France’s advanced brain imaging center.

The positions are funded, in part, by a European Research Council (ERC) advanced grant which has been granted to Stanislas Dehaene to study the “languages of the brain”. The aim is to clarify how the brain represents complex nested sequences, and why the human brain is so unique in its ability to process language, mathematics, or music. The methods combine intracranial recordings, magneto-encephalography, functional MRI and computational modeling.

You will be part of a team of young researchers who develop innovative paradigms for behavioral and brain-imaging analysis. We expect to fill three positions, respectively in

  • Analysis of human intracranial signals during the processing of sentences, and comparison of simultaneously recorded intracranial and MEG signals.
  • Comparison of functional brain activity during sequence processing in humans and non-human primates, using fMRI and electrophysiological tools.
  • Modelling of sequence processing using mathematical and neural-network approaches

We are looking for highly motivated and autonomous young minds with a passion for research. The position requires a strong background in neuroscience, cognitive science, mathematics, physics, or computer science; a strong competence in written and spoken English; and excellent programming skills (primarily Matlab or Python). Linguistic skills would be strong bonus. The whole lab operates solely in English, but speaking French could be useful for some aspects of stimulus design. The proposal is for a full-time appointment for 3 or 4 years, starting in the Summer or Fall 2017.
Contact: Stanislas.Dehaene@cea.fr