WHO AM I?
Faculty member of the Collaborative Program in Neuroscience
Interested students can apply to the MA/PhD program in Developmental Psychology and Education
EDUCATION AND TRAINING
Post-Doctoral Research Associate at Haskins Laboratories (affiliated Yale University) (Advisors: Dr. Nicole Landi, Dr. Ken Pugh).
PhD in Psychology and Neuroscience, University of Toronto (Advisor: Dr. Laura-Ann Petitto)
MA in Linguistics, University of Western Ontario
BSc in Biology, University of Toronto
WHAT I DO?
I am fundamentally interested in the neural mechanisms that support language (monolingual or bilingual, signed or spoken), reading and cognitive development across the lifespan. My research asks questions such as how does early life experience change the brain’s capacity for language and learning? I use MRI and functional Near Infrared Spectroscopy (fNIRS) neuroimaging technology in combination with genetic and behavioral analyses to gain new insights into the biological underpinnings of language, reading, and human cognition.
Recently, my research has focused on understanding child development (particularly literacy outcomes) in environments with high risk of illiteracy. Currently, my team and I are conducting a field neuroimaging study in the rural Côte d'Ivoire aimed at understanding how the neural circuitry for reading emerges under extremely poor conditions (more).
My research also develops novel data analysis approaches to functional neuroimaging data. My work uses combinations of multivariate statistics and modeling to quantify developmental changes among interacting brain systems that give rise to language and higher cognitive functions.
Promoting Literacy Development in Children in Rural Cocoa Producing Communities
How does inconsistent access to language and reading instruction in a new language impact literacy outcomes? How can we best design policies to ameliorate the negative consequence of poverty on literacy? As part of the Transforming Education in Cocoa Communities (TRECC) program and with a team of Ivorian graduate students, we are conducting a cognitive, linguistic, and reading assessment in children growing up in rural cocoa communities in Côte d’Ivoire. We combine behavioral indicators of literacy development with portable neuroimaging using functional Near Infrared Spectroscopy (fNIRS) to shed new light on brain development in impoverished and adverse conditions. Children in these communities face many challenges to learning to read: high poverty rates, poor school attendance, and child labor in cocoa agriculture. Children face the added challenge of learning to read in a new language, French, different from the language spoke in their community. Education is almost exclusively French, while there are over 60 languages spoken in Côte d’Ivoire. Our combined brain-behavior approach allows us to apply the latest tools of cognitive neuroscience to advance the study of global child development.
Research Team: Dr. Herman Akpe, Fabrice Tanoh (PhD Students: Jo Hannon-Cropp, Mary Ball)
Funding: Jacobs Foundation Early Career Fellowship (PI: Jasinska); Jacobs Foundation Science Capacity Building Funding (PI: Jasinska)
Neural and Genetic Basis of Language and Reading Development
The aim of this research program is to track how aspects of language and cognition (including working memory, attention, and executive functions) are represented and processed in the developing brain, and determine how environmental factors such as language background (i.e. bilingualism, biliteracy) shape the neurodevelopmental trajectories of these key linguistic and cognitive skills, and literacy outcomes.
Chinese-, Spanish-, and English-speaking children and adults are invited to participate.
Current studies in this research program include:
Allô Alphabet: Technology-based Literacy Intervention in Low-Resource, Low-Literacy Settings
Learning to read depends not only on having access to education, but on having access to quality education. In this research program, we develop a technology-based literacy intervention program for remote, rural communities of Côte d’Ivoire with the goal of providing quality, evidence-based educational programming via mobile phone to complement the school curriculum. No existing literacy intervention programs in Cote d'Ivoire currently offer scalable solutions to quickly address the problems of widespread student literacy failures. Our interdisciplinary approach combines expertise in literacy development, tech-based education solutions, and human-computer interaction in order to examine how technology-based literacy intervention, and its effective implementation and scalability, can improve literacy outcomes in communities with high illiteracy rates. We combine multiple research tools from the learning sciences (language, cognitive, and literacy assessment, longitudinal neuroimaging of the brain's reading networks, and evaluation of technology use and integration into the community) to find an optimal and scalable strategy for literacy intervention that can be adopted in Côte d'Ivoire and throughout sub-Saharan Africa.
Jasinska Research Team: Dr. Herman Akpe, Fabrice Tanoh,
Funding: Jacobs Foundation Research Grant (Co-PI: K. Jasinska)
Tracking the Neuroplasticity of the Speech Cortex and Language Outcomes in Children with Cochlear Implants
Hearing loss is one of the most common birth defects in the United States affecting approximately 3 in 1,000 newborns. Depending on the degree of hearing loss, deaf and hard-of-hearing (DHH) infants receive interventions that may include cochlear implants (CI). Nevertheless, there is a huge amount of variability in these children’s linguistic and academic outcomes. The amount/type of therapy that children receive, as well as the language input they are exposed to are thought to contribute (to some degree) to this variability. Additionally, the age of implantation is considered one of the strongest predictors of language outcomes for DHH children, since lack of exposure to sound early in life affects the development of the brain’s auditory processing areas. But not all children implanted at the same age achieve the same language skills. Could there be factors at the neural level that make it easier (or harder) to process speech and acquire language once the brain gains access to sound through the CI? The mechanism by which the brain adapts to a new sensory modality following implantation and begins to perceive the relevant speech stream in a range of listening environments (including noisy contexts that may negatively impact speech processing), and the implication for developing language skills remain poorly understood. We combine two cutting edge technologies (fNIRS and eye-tracking) to examine dynamic changes in neuroplasticity and organization of neural pathways for speech perception and language skills right after implantation. Our research may help predict language outcomes and explain the high degree of individual variability observed in children with CIs. Children requiring additional support could be identified earlier, preventing language delays and later academic problems.
Dr. Thierry Morlet, Nemours Children's Health System (PhD Student: Shakhlo Nematova)
Soutenir Les Enfants à la Maison et à l'École (SEME) / Supporting Children at Home and School
Côte d’Ivoire (CIV) ranks 170 of 189 countries in the Human Development Index and is also the largest producer of cocoa in the world. In rural cocoa-producing communities, poverty is rampant and has reached levels as high as 61.2%, with many households surviving on $1-2 a day. Cocoa accounts for 74% of total income for the average cocoa-growing household in Côte d’Ivoire, creating a great reliance on the crop. The pressure to produce cocoa often means it is a family affair—it is estimated that 1.3 million school-aged children (out of a population of 3.7 million) are working in cocoa production (Tulane University, 2015), largely concentrated in rural areas. At the same time, the government is committed to expanding educational access through universal basic education for all children. Yet educational quality and learning outcomes are very low, especially in cocoa growing regions. The lack of quality and relevant education can also push children out of school and into family farming. SEME is a two-pronged approach to address both poverty and educational outcomes, testing individually and in combination two interventions: cash transfers (CT) and educational-quality improvement. This model has the potential to deliver substantially greater results per dollar than current standard practice, which tackles each source independently. SEME examines how improving educational quality and reducing poverty can reduce child labor and improve children's learning outcomes.
Funding: Child Learning and Education Facility (CLEF) (Co-PI: K. Jasinska)
Impact of interrupted schooling on neurodevelopment for reading in resettled refugee children
As children learn to read, brain regions associated with visual and language processing form specialized cortical circuits involving predominantly left-hemisphere occipitotemporal, temporoparietal, and frontal regions—the brain’s ‘reading network’. Reading experience drives the functional neural specialization for reading. To date, the critical role of experience in functional neural specialization has remained unexamined because most research has only examined neurodevelopmental trajectories for reading in children with reading experience— children who begin formal literacy instruction when they enroll in school at a government-mandated age (6 years). Our existing approaches to studying the emergence of reading function in the brain cannot separate the discrete effects of experience and age. An important theoretical advance would be to test how the brain’s reading network forms through reading experience or lack thereof across development. The resettlement of refugee children provides an opportunity to address these outstanding issues. For refugee children, displacement and migration often corresponds to a period of interrupted schooling and limited reading experience. As refugee children of different ages resettle in Canada, they learn a new language and learn to read at school. Individual differences in language and reading experiences among refugee children provide a ‘natural paradigm’ from which we can test specific hypotheses concerning the role of experience in functional neural specialization for reading. We use functional neuroimaging to examine the emergence of neural systems for reading in children who have experienced variable periods of interrupted schooling and resumed schooling/learning to read at different ages. Examining the role of experience in the functional neural specialization for reading will provide important theoretical and practical insights—we gain a deeper understanding of the development of neural systems across diverse developmental experiences, and the changing plasticity of neural systems across development.
Research Partners: Dr. Becky Chen (University of Toronto)
Funding: Connaught New Researcher Award (PI: K. Jasinska)
PUBLICATIONS (full list)
Jasińska, K., Akpé, H., Seri, A. B., Zinszer, B., Yoffo, R., Mulford, K., Curran, E., Ball, M.C., & Tanoh, F. (Revise and Resubmit). Evaluating Bilingual Children's Native Language Abilities in Côte d’Ivoire: Introducing the Ivorian Children's Language Assessment Toolkit for Attié, Abidji, Baoulé, and Bété.
Zinszer, B, Hannon-Cropp, J., Kouadio, E., Akpé, H., Tanoh, F., Hu, A., Qi, Z. & Jasińska, K. (Accepted). Statistical learning in children's emergent L2 literacy: Cross-cultural insights from rural Côte d'Ivoire.
Ball, M.C., Curran, E., Tanoh, F., Akpé, H., Seri, A., Nematova, S. & Jasińska, K. (in press). Learning to read in environments with high risk of illiteracy: the role of bilingualism and bilingual education.
Akpé, H., Seri, A., Tanoh, F., Yoffo, R., & Jasińska, K. (in press). De l'introduction d'un kit d'évaluation linquistique à l'evaluation des competences orales chez les apprenants du primarie en langue Ivoirienne pour les langues Attié, Abidji, Baoulé, et Bété.
Jasińska, K., Shuai, S., Lau, A., Frost, S., Landi, N. & Pugh, K.R. (2021) Functional Connectivity in the Developing Language Network Predict Future Reading Ability in 4-year-old Children. Developmental Science. doi:10.1111/desc.13041
Mascheretti, S., Perdue, M., Feng, B., Andreola, C., Dionne, G., Jasińska, K., Pugh, K.R., Grigorenko, E., & Landi, N. (2020). From BDNF to reading: Neural activation and phonological processing as multiple mediators. Behavioural Brain Research. doi: 10.1016/j.bbr.2020.112859
Madaio, M., Tanoh, F., Blahoua, A., Jasińska, K. & Ogan, A. (2019). Designing for Low-Literate Parental Support for a Mobile-Based Literacy Technology in Côte d'Ivoire. Publication of CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems.
Ryherd, K., Jasińska, K., Van Dyke, J.A., Hung, Y., Baron, E., Mencl, W.E., Zevin, J. & Landi, N. (2018) Cortical regions supporting reading comprehension skill for single words and discourse. Brain and Language, 186, 32–43. doi:10.1016/j.bandl.2018.08.001
Perdue, M., Mascheretti, S., Kornilov, S., Jasińska, K., Ryherd, K., Frost, S., Mencl, W.E., Grigorenko, E., Pugh, K.R. & Landi, N. (2018). Common variation within SETBP1 is associated with reading-related skills and patterns of functional neural activation. Neuropsychologia,doi: 10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2018.07.015.
Jasińska, K., and Guei, Sosthene (2018). Neuroimaging filed methods using functional Near Infrared Spectroscopy (fNIRS) to Study Global Child Development: Rural sub-Saharan Africa. JoVE, 132, doi:10.3791/57165.
Jasińska, K. & Petitto, L.A. (2018). Age of Bilingual Exposure Predicts Distinct Contributions of Phonology and Semantics to Successful Reading Development. Child Development, 89 (1). doi:10.1111/cdev.12745.
Jasińska, K. Molfese, P., Mencl, W.E., Pugh, K.R., Grigorenko, E. & Landi, N. (2017). The BDNF Val66Met Polymorphism is Associated with Structural Neuroanatomical Differences in Young Children. Behavioural Brain Research, 328, 48-56. doi:10.1016/j.bbr.2017.03.014.
Jasińska, K., Berens, M. S., Kovelman, I., & Petitto, L. A. (2016). Bilingualism yields language-specific plasticity in left hemisphere's circuitry for learning to read in young children. Neuropsychologia, 98, 34-45. doi: 10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2016.11.018.
Jasińska, K. Molfese, P., Mencl, W.E., Pugh, K.R., Grigorenko, E. & Landi, N. (2016). Relations Between the BDNF Val/Met Polymorphism, Patterns of Neural Activation in the Developing Brain and Children's Reading and Reading-Related Skills. PLOS One, 11(8), 1-25. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0157449.
Jasińska, K., Frost, S., Molfese, P., Landi, N., Mencl, W. E., Rueckle, J., and Pugh, K. (2016). Neuroimaging Perspectives on Skilled and Impaired Reading and the Bilingual Experience. In A. Khateb and I. Bar Kochva (Eds.), Reading Fluency: Current Insights from Neuro-Cognitive Research and Intervention Studies. Haifa, Israel: Springer
Jasińska, K. & Petitto, L.A. (2014). Development of Neural Systems for Reading in the Monolingual and Bilingual Brain: New Insights from functional Near Infrared Spectroscopy Neuroimaging. Developmental Neuropsychology, 39(6), 421-39. doi: 10.1080/87565641.2014.939180.
Jasińska, K. & Petitto, L.A. (2013). How Age of Bilingual Exposure Can Change the Neural Systems for Language in the Developing Brain: A functional Near Infrared Spectroscopy Investigation of Syntactic Processing in Monolingual and Bilingual Children. Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience, 6, 87-101. doi: 10.1016/j.dcn.2013.06.005.
Petitto, L.A., Berens, M.S., Kovelman, I., Dubins, M.H., Jasińska, K., & Shalinsky, M. (2012). The “Perceptual Wedge” hypothesis as the basis for bilingual babies’ phonetic processing advantage: New insights from fNIRS brain imaging. Brain and Language, 121(2), 142-155. doi:0.1016/j.bandl.2011.05.003
CONFERENCE POSTERS (SELECT)