Zhenghan Qi works on research in the MRI lab inside the ISEC building.

Study aims to determine if ‘statistical learning’ can predict autistic children’s language development

For many of us, our first word was either “dada” or “mama.” A concept known as “statistical learning” likely played a role in helping us reach that milestone.

Statistical learning, or SL for short, is a foundational theory of language development used to explain the process by which a person gains the understanding to detect, extract and predict word patterns by taking in sound sequences and other forms of information.

The theory was first explained decades ago, when researchers found that infants were implicitly able to pick up on words and sound patterns by passively listening to people speak, explains Zhenghan Qi, assistant professor for the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders and the Department of Psychology.

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Photo by Matthew Modoono/Northeastern University

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