Virtually real (VIRE): assessment and intervention of speech comprehension in school-aged children with and without language deficits

Research team:

PI (Principal Investigator): Satu Saalasti, PhD, University lecturer, speech and language therapist

Minna Laakso, Professor

Satu Paavola, PhD student, Department of Psychology and Logopedics, University of Helsinki

Main collaborators:

Tuuli Immonen, MD, PhD, New Children’s Hospital, HUCH, Ahmed Geneid, MD, PhD, Phoniatrics, HUCH

Soile Loukusa, PhD, docent, speech and language therapist, Research Unit of Logopedics, University of Oulu

Co-PI: Katja Dindar, PhD, psychologist, Research Unit of Logopedics, University of Oulu

Researcher: PhD candidate, MA, Msc Aija Kotila, Research Unit of Logopedics, University of Oulu


Child Neurology, Helsinki University Hospital and Phoniatrics, Helsinki University Hospital, the University of Oulu and the Oulu University Hospital

Part of consortium led by professor Minna Laakso: Intervention of social speech comprehension in virtual reality environment (V-REAL).

Public abstract:

Difficulties in understanding spoken language are at the core of neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism spectrum disorders and developmental language disorders. Speech comprehension deficits may negatively affect social-emotional development, mental health and academic performance. There is a need to develop novel assessment and intervention methods to target and support treatment. Virtual reality (VR) can be used as an ecologically valid platform for conducting language research and studying speech comprehension. Eye tracking can be used as a window to language comprehension, as eye movements are synchronized to the referential processing of linguistic input. In the current project, we aim to study speech comprehension in children in VR environment that simulates every day social situations. The research is conducted at the Department of Psychology and Logopedics in multidisciplinary collaboration with researchers and Peili Vision Oy. The study has potential for improving the understanding of speech comprehension process in children with neurodevelopmental disorders, and importantly, developing novel ways for decreasing the negative effects of speech comprehension difficulties by improving the focus and quantity of training.