Attention, Perception and Language Acquisition (APAL)

Research Program


Where we are

Institut de Neurociències de la Universitat de Barcelona (UBNeuro)

How to reach us

Related websites

Our group was formed in 2010 with researchers from the then Department of Basic Psychology at the Faculty of Psychology, University of Barcelona.

Our research focuses on the early years of life, but we do not exclude older age groups in order to examine possible changes from an evolutionary perspective. We also investigate neurocognitive risk populations, particularly preterm infants, infants born small for gestational age (SGA) and infants with neonatal arterial ischaemic stroke. We conduct studies on cognitive and language development, with a special focus on bilingualism, using primarily experimental/behavioural methodology, although we have recently incorporated neuroimaging electroencephalography (EEG) and event-related potential (ERP) methods.

The regular members of the group form part of the Cognition and Brain Plasticity Group at the University of Barcelona (2017 SGR-1573, coordinated by A. Rodríguez-Fornells).

Research lines

Our three active, and somewhat interconnected, research areas are:

  1. Speech perception
  2. Learning words
  3. Language precursors in neurocognitive risk populations.

Scientific objectives

  1. To evaluate and describe early audiovisual speech perception abilities, encompassing not only groups with normal development but also at-risk patient groups, especially preterm infants of various gestational ages, including low-risk groups such as moderate preterm infants.
  2. To evaluate patients with neonatal arterial ischaemic stroke with a view to identifying the language development effect at preschool/school stages and their learning abilities. For this line of inquiry, we work closely with Dr A. García-Álix (Neonatology). To follow-up SGA children when they turn eight years to evaluate their cognitive development and school performance (Dr L. Ibáñez, Endocrinology).
  3. To develop a new line of research in cochlear implant candidate patients to evaluate pre-implant neurological and cognitive-communicative characteristics and how these relate to post-implant language learning. For this line, we collaborate with Dr Claveria (ENT) and Dr Rebollo (Neuroradiology).

Area/Field of expertise

The group has gained expertise in laboratory behavioural techniques used in early childhood to assess different speech perception and language learning abilities . These methods are based on attention measuring and recording eye movements in classical habituation, familiarity and preference experimental procedures. We also use developmental scales and standardised tests to individually assess cognitive, motor and language development. We also use questionnaires for families to evaluate comprehension and expressive language and adaptive behaviour in the family setting.

Group members


  • Language factors modulate audiovisual speech perception
    Birulés Muntané, Joan
  • Constraints in word segmentation and mapping
    Teixidó Ibáñez, Maria
  • Gesture-speech temporal integration in language development
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