Predicting Language Outcomes From Early Processing Efficiency in Preterm Children

Principal Investigator: Heidi Feldman, MD, PhD

Research Coordinator: Liz Loi / Email: / Phone: (650) 498-2575


Our research investigates the ways in which preterm birth affects how very young children learn to speak and understand language, and how older children gain efficiency in language processing. We observe how children at different ages learn new words and comprehend familiar words, how they communicate effectively with others, and how they use both linguistic and non-linguistic skills in problem-solving.  All of the activities in our studies are designed to be age-appropriate and fun for children.


In this longitudinal study, each child is expected to come for a total of 12-16 sessions of behavioral testing, spread out over 3 years. Children are tested in 2 sessions (sessions occur approximately one week apart) at ages 18 (chronological), 18 (adjusted; applicable to pre-terms), 24, 30, 36, 42, 48, and 54 months.  Each session is typically 30 to 60 minutes in duration, depending on the age of the child and number of breaks taken.

In a typical session, we video-record your child participating in one or more engaging activities with you and/or a member of our staff.

  • In one type of task, your child looks at colorful pictures on a video screen while listening to recorded speech referring to the pictures.
  • In another type of task, we observe children interacting with a staff member in the playroom. In these game-like activities, your child may be asked to play with toys, name or point to pictures, repeat sequences of words or sentences, tell stories, imitate hand movements, or solve puzzles.
  • In a third type of task, we observe how children interact spontaneously in a less structured situation. In some cases, we observe you as you play with your child in our playroom.


We may also collect a language questionnaire and similar forms containing basic information about your child’s development.  Additionally, we may review your child’s medical records, including ultrasounds and MRI scans, to gain a better understanding of your child’s medical history.  All information is used for purposes of basic research on language learning only, and will not constitute a clinical assessment or evaluation.

This study is a collaboration between our group and the Language Learning Lab.