ALCI stands for “Acquiring Language with a Cochlear Implant: The Role of Sequential Learning”. The ALCI team is conducting a five-year study funded by the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders to explore the developmental trajectory of sequential learning and language and how they are related for both typically developing children and for children who have various types of developmental challenges affecting language development. We think that sequential learning is a very important component of language acquisition. Thus, for us, the study of sequential learning is essential, not only so that we may understand how language is typically learned and develops over the lifespan, but also to enable us to construct successful interventions for children who are struggling with language in particular ways. We study these phenomena through both behavioral methods, such as measuring children’s performance on specially designed video games and on standardized tests of cognition and language, and neurophysiological methods, such as event-related potentials (ERPs) collected by electroencephalograph (EEG), which non-invasively measures tiny changes in electrical activity in the brain.
The current study’s focus is on the relationship between sequential learning and language ability in typically hearing children and in children who are deaf and use cochlear implants to hear. We think that the relationship may be different for the two groups because of their different levels of exposure to sound early in infancy. Although it is, of course, important to hear speech in order to be able to learn to both understand and produce spoken language, it may also be that hearing sounds, be they language or not, is important early in life for developing sequential learning abilities. Sequential learning ability, in turn, is important for acquiring spoken language, and possibly even non-spoken language, such as sign language and reading. Children who cannot hear sounds during infancy but later gain access to sound through cochlear implants may be forced to use other mechanisms to acquire spoken language. Although not all children with cochlear implants have difficulty with spoken language, we hope that those who do will eventually be able to benefit from our ongoing research into the relationships between sound, sequential learning, and language acquisition.
ALCI TEAM MEMBERS