Head and Coordination


03/2019 – 12/2020

Project pi-phon

Pupillary indices of phonological memory: their relationship with language development

The aim of the pi-phon project is to measure, with a Task Evoked Pupillary Responses (TEPRs) methodology, the processing resources allocated by young children during the phonological processing and short-term retention of auditorily presented novel words (nonwords) and relate their extent to children’s language development.


The capacity of children’s phonological working memory constitutes one of the factors that have been associated with individual differences in language development. By means of behavioral tasks devised to tap on the active contribution of the phonological memory system (e.g. the Nonword Repetition Task), a series of studies revealed a significant relationship -concurrent and predictive- between children’s performance in these tasks and various dimensions of language development (e.g., vocabulary size, novel word learning, morphosyntactic complexity in language production, literacy development).

The main aim of this project is to obtain, by means of a Task Evoked Pupillary Responses (TEPRs) methodology, psychophysiological indices of young children’s phonological memory capacity. By measuring the dynamic changes in pupil size (pupil dilations), which – under constant light conditions – constitute valid indices of the cognitive effort/resources allocated to a cognitive task, we investigate whether the extent of pupillary activation produced during the phonological processing and short-term retention of a series of novel phonological forms presented auditorily is related

  1. to the phonological complexity of the nonwords
  2. to children’s behavioral performance in the repetition of the nonwords, and
  3. to their vocabulary size.