About Down's Syndrome : Interaction Between Language and Memory

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Dr Nikolitsa (Niki) Stathopoulou, Marie Curie Research Fellow. Niki Stathopoulou holds a PhD in Psycholinguistics and Neurolinguistics from the University of Essex. She has recently received a prestigious EU Marie-Curie International Fellowship that brought her to Bristol to work with Professor Chris Jarrold on a two-year project, investigating the links between working memory and language in Down syndrome and other conditions.

Chris Jarrold is Professor of Cognitive Development at the University of Bristol. His research investigates the causes and consequences of working memory development. As part of this he examines working memory in individuals with developmental conditions, including Down syndrome, where he has explored the links between verbal working memory and language development.

Outline of the research

The study of language and cognition in people with neurodevelopmental disorders raises two related questions of extreme theoretical importance. The first concerns the nature of the language deficits in genetic disorders of different aetiology. Do children with different genetic impairments exhibit similar or different patterns of linguistic strengths or weaknesses? The second, associated question is: to what extent are any language deficits the result of non-linguistic impairments? Many researchers assume that SLI and Williams Syndrome (WS) provide clear evidence of the independence of language from cognition. This existing view of the dissociation of language and cognition has played a dominant role in shaping our understanding of these conditions and atypical language development more generally. However, both individuals with DS and SLI have clear memory difficulties that appear to affect aspects of their language function, and recent evidence has shown that the notion that language in WS is spared is a gross over-simplification. The main aim of this EU-funded fellowship project is therefore to challenge these existing views by adopting a novel, systematic approach to look at the interaction between language and cognition in these conditions.

This study begun in September 2013, and end in September 2015.

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