Discover the mind behind the research that looks at the neurophysiological basis of speech and language processing in children with dyslexia.
About the researcher
Kanad Mandke is a research associate at the Centre for Neuroscience in Education at the Department of Psychology and a college research associate at Magdalene College, University of Cambridge.
His research aims to investigate the neurophysiological basis of speech and language processing in typically developing children and in children with dyslexia. To study these neural processes, he uses novel brain imaging methods.
Kanad moved to Eddington in 2019 and quickly fell in love with the neighbourhood: being surrounded by green spaces and a warming community made him feel that he was in the right place.
My research looks at the neurophysiological basis of speech and language processing in children with dyslexia.
To this end, I primarily use a method called magnetoencephalography or MEG, which is a highly specialised machine, that measures the small magnetic fields of the brain, allowing us to study brain activity on a millisecond timescale.
When an infant is born, it is fascinating that by the age of two they can acquire some vocabulary and understand what their parents are saying. By the age of seven, the children develop a high functioning language system that allows them to communicate efficiently. This is also the period when they start reading and many changes happen in the brain. The whole process of language acquisition is simply quite fascinating. In our laboratory we are interested in discovering how this process begins and some of our fundamental questions are:
What are the neural processes that allow us to acquire language?
What happens in the brain when these systems break down in childhood?
When do these systems break down?
How early do they break down, and can we help these children in a better way?
In 2019 we started working on a large longitudinal study. We recruited several children from different local schools. In our typical experiments, children get inside the MEG scanner and listen to a story while their brain activity is recorded. Whilst in the scanner, we also get them to tap along to a stream of rhythmic sounds, to measure their response to the rhythmic beat.
In this study, which was recently published, we identified a network of brain regions that processes various linguistic information. This information is primarily seen as a low-frequency (<10Hz) signal in our speech. We further showed that children with dyslexia have difficulties encoding these low-frequency rhythms in speech, and they also process this information less efficiently than age-matched children. We think difficulties in processing this low frequency information may impair speech organisation in the brain.
We believe that dyslexia starts a lot earlier than is commonly thought, but it is only diagnosed when children get to school and start reading.
To process speech, the rhythmic electrical activity in our brain synchronises with the rhythms in speech. Our best evidence in children with dyslexia currently points to a misalignment between the electric activity in the brain and rhythms in speech.
If these misalignments start from a very young age (early stages of language development) then the mental representation of language or sound representation (i.e., phonology) gets impaired. So, when the child starts reading, they are making incorrect associations between how a speech sound is represented in the brain and what it looks like in text. This probably leads to errors in reading.
Moving to Eddington was the best decision. I absolutely love living here.
I’m from Pune, a city in India. I moved to Nottingham to do my master’s degree and subsequently stayed for my PhD. After this, I got the post-doctoral position at Cambridge in 2019 and moved to Eddington.
I was probably among the first residents to move into this building. I find it very convenient that within 15 minutes on the bike I’m in the centre of Cambridge.
There is a nice sense of community: my partner and I both have lots of friends in Eddington and there are various entertainment activities.
Plus, in hindsight moving to Eddington was probably the best decision in light of all the restrictions we have been under in the last two years as a result of the pandemic. We have access to good facilities, there’s a supermarket close by and now we have the cafe, the hotel, and the cocktail bar, as well as lots of open, green spaces.
Eddington is a very inspiring place to live in.
You always meet some great people here. It’s quite inspiring that Eddington is named after Arthur Eddington, a very famous Cambridge academic. Turing Way is named after Alan Turing. Wileman Way after Margaret Wileman, the founder of Hughes Hall, and not too far away from there, we have JJ Thomson Avenue. Inspiration is just out there, and in Cambridge, we don’t have to go far to find it.