Human communication relies on an array of auditory skills ranging from basic encoding of sound to auditory memory and attention. Improving these skills could benefit many individuals who either attempt to improve their communication skills (e.g. by learning a foreign language) or suffer from communication disorders. However, improving auditory skills remains a challenge because the mechanisms underlying auditory learning are poorly understood. In particular it is not clear whether learning simple auditory skills can generalize to more complex ones. To address this issue, we will compare the outcomes of different auditory training regimens in the general population and between individuals with and without persistent reading and learning difficulties. We hypothesize that learning will modify both general and specific auditory mechanisms. However, we expect that while the modification of specific encoding mechanisms will be closely related to the nature of the stimuli used in training, general mechanisms like attention will be similarly affected by different training programs. To this end, students learning English as a second language will train on one of three training regimens (the first 2 are commercially available) emphasizing either general listening skills (LACE), phonemic discriminations (Phonomena), or basic auditory skills. Cognitive, perceptual and neural outcomes of training will be compared between the trained groups as well as to naïve controls. In addition to the theoretical implications of the proposed study, it is expected to provide clinicians, educators and the general public information regarding the suitability of the studied training regimens to specific clinical or educational purposes. The study’s relevance to the Work program lies in the central question it addresses in Auditory Neuroscience and the way it will facilitate the (re)integration of the coordinator to the EU/Israeli scientific community after working in the US.
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