Department of Psychology

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Cognitive neuroscience of development and learning difficulties

Research goals and focuses

To understand the processes related to learning and learning difficulties, and in particular, to fluent and dysfluent reading and why reading is difficult for some children. Of special interest is to understand neurobiological risk factors or endophenotypes for developmental reading disorder (dyslexia) and how deficits in processes like auditory and speech perception, visual and audiovisual processing contribute to dyslexia, and more widely to reading fluency, reading comprehension and reading/information seeking in digital media. Our aim is also to develop well targeted remediation/ training approaches.

Research themes

Cognitive neuroscience, Reading processes, Information seeking in digital media, Learning difficulties, Dyslexia, Language problems and ADHD, Difficulties in second language learning, Intervention.

Research methods

Brain research (event-related potentials, ERPs), eye movements (EMs), behavioral experimental research, interventions and longitudinal studies.





Paavo Leppänen

Senior and post-doctoral researchers

Jarkko Hautala
Jarmo Hämäläinen
Carita Kiili

PhD Students

Leena Ervast,
Otto Loberg,
Kaisa Lohvansuu,
Elisa Heikkinen, (ERP research)
Mari Veijola,
Swantje Zachau, (ERP research)

Research projects



Selected Publications

  • Anthoni, H., Sucheston, L.E., Lewis, B.A., Tapia-Páez, I., Fan, X., Zucchelli, M., Taipale, M., Stein, C. M., Hokkanen, M-E., Castrén, E., Pennington, B.F., Smith, S.D., Olson, R.K., Tomblin, J.B., Schulte-Körne, G., Nöthen, M., Schumacher, J., Müller-Myhsok, B., Hoffmann, P., Gilger, J.W., Hynd, G.W., Nopola-Hemmi, H., Leppanen, P.H.T., Lyytinen, H., Schoumans, J., Nordenskjöld, M., Spencer, J., Stanic, D., Boon, W.C.., Simpson, E., Mäkelä, S., Gustafsson, J-Å., Peyrard-Janvid, M., Iyengar, S., Kere, J. (accepted). The aromatase gene cyp19a1: Several genetic and functional lines of evidence supporting a role in reading, speech and language. Behavior Genetics.
  • Björn, P.M., Kakkuri, I., Karvonen, P., & Leppänen, P.H.T. (2012). Accelerating early language development with multi-sensory training. Early Child Development and Care, 182 (3–4), 435–451.
  • Björn, P. M., Kakkuri, I., & Leppänen, P.H.T. (2013). The covariation between parental and expert evaluations of early language skills. Early Child Development and Care, (ahead-of-print), 1-13. DOI:10.1080/03004430.2013.809713
  • Björn, P.M., & Leppänen, P.H.T. (2013).  Accelerating decoding-related skills in poor readers learning a foreign language: a computer-based intervention. Educational Psychology, doi:  10.1080/01443410.2013.797336
  • Bruder, J., Leppänen, P.H., Bartling, J., Csépe, V., Démonet, J.F., Schulte-Körne, G. (2010). An investigation of prototypical and atypical within-category vowels and non-speech analogues on cortical auditory evoked related potentials (AERPs) in 9 year old children. International Journal of Psychophysiology.
  • Bruder, J., Leppänen, P., Bartling, J., Csépe, V., Démonet, J-F., Schulte-Körne, G. (2011). Dyslexic children reveal abnormal native language representations: Evidence from a study of mismatch negativity. Psychophysiology, 48 (8), 1107-18.
  • Choudhury, N., Leppänen, P.H.T., Leevers, H.J. & Benasich, A.A. (2007). Infant information processing and family history of specific language impairment: converging evidence for RAP deficits from two paradigms. Developmental Science, 10, 213-236.
  • Cong, F., Leppänen, P.H.T., Astikainen, P., Hämäläinen, J. A., Hietanen, J. K., & Ristaniemi, T. (2011). Dimension Reduction: Additional Benefit of an Optimal Filter for Independent Component Analysis to Extract Event-related Potentials. Journal of Neuroscience Methods, 201, 269-280.
  • Cong, F., He, Z., Hämäläinen, J., Leppänen, P.H.T., Lyytinen, H., Cichocki, A., & Ristaniemi, T. (2013). Validating rationale of group-level component analysis based on estimating number of sources in EEG through model order selection, Journal of Neuroscience Methods, 212 (1): 165–172.
  • Guttorm, T.K., Leppänen, P.H.T., Hämäläinen J. A.,, Eklund, K.M., & Lyytinen, H. (2010). Newborn event-related potentials predict poorer pre-reading skills in children at-risk for dyslexia. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 43, 391-401 (OnlineFirst, Nov 4, 2009 as doi:10.1177/0022219409345005).
  • Hämäläinen, J.A., Guttorm, T.K, Richardson, U., Alku, P., Lyytinen, H., & Leppänen, P.H.T. (2013). Auditory event-related potentials measured in preschool predict later reading problems at school age. Developmental Neuropsychology. 38(8), 550-566.
  • Hämäläinen J. A., Leppänen, P.H.T., Eklund, K., Thomson, J., Richardson, U., Guttorm, T.K., Witton, C., Poikkeus, A-M., Goswami, U., & Lyytinen, H. (2009). Common variance in amplitude envelope perception tasks and their impact on phoneme duration perception and reading and spelling in Finnish children with reading disabilities. Applied Psycholinguistics, 30, 511–530.
  • Hämäläinen, J., Leppänen, P.H.T., Guttorm, T.K., & Lyytinen, H. (2007). N1 and P2 components of auditory event-related potentials in children with and without reading disabilities. Clinical Neurophysiology, 118, 2263–2275.
  • Hämäläinen, J., Leppänen, P.H.T., Guttorm, T.K., & Lyytinen, H. (2008). Event-related potentials to pitch and rise time change in children with reading disabilities and typically reading children. Clinical Neurophysiology, 119, 100-115.
  • Hämäläinen, J. A., Salminen, H. K., Leppänen, P. H. T. (2012). Basic auditory processing deficits in dyslexia: Systematic Review of the Behavioral and Event-Related Potential/Field Evidence. Journal of Learning Disabilities, first published on February 8, 2012 as doi:10.1177/0022219411436213.
  • Khan, A., Hämäläinen, J. A., Leppänen, P.H.T., & Lyytinen, H. (2011). Auditory event-related potentials show altered hemispheric responses in dyslexia. Neuroscience Letters, 498, 127-132.
  • Leppänen, P.H.T. (2013). Introduction to the Special Issue: Brain event-related potentials as biomarkers of language and literacy development, feedback and intervention. Developmental Neuropsychology, 38(8), 507-513.
  • Leppänen, P.H.T. (2013). Lukivaikeus ja aivot – neurobiologisia riskitekijöitä [Dyslexia and the brain – neurobiological risk factors]. Puheen ja kielen yhdistyksen julkaisuja, 45, 23-37.
  • Leppänen P. H. T., Hämäläinen J. A., Guttorm T. K., Eklund K.M., Salminen, H., Tanskanen, A., Torppa, M., Puolakanaho, A., Richardson, U., Pennala, R., & Lyytinen, H. (2011). Infant brain responses associated with reading-related skills before school and at school age. Neurophysiologie Clinique/Clinical Neurophysiology, 42 (1–2), 35–41.
  • Leppänen P. H. T., Hämäläinen J. A., Salminen H. K., Eklund K., Guttorm T. K., Lohvansuu, K., Puolakanaho, A., & Lyytinen H. (2010). Brain event-related potentials reveal atypical processing of sound frequency in newborns at-risk for familial dyslexia and associations to reading and related skills. Cortex, 46, 1362-1376.
  • Leppänen, P. H. T., Pihko, E., Eklund, K. M., & Lyytinen, H. (1999). Cortical responses of infants with and without a genetic risk for dyslexia: II. Group effects. NeuroReport,10, 969-973.
  • Leppänen, P. H. T., Richardson, U., Pihko, E., Eklund, K. M., Guttorm., T. K., Aro, M., & Lyytinen, H. (2002). Brain responses to changes in speech sound durations differ between infants with and without familial risk for dyslexia. Developmental Neuropsychology, 22 (1), 407-422.
  • Lyytinen, H., Guttorm, T., Huttunen, T., Hämäläinen, J., Leppänen, P.H.T., Vesterinen, M. (2005). Psychophysiology of developmental dyslexia: a review of findings including studies of children at risk for dyslexia. Journal of Neurolinguistics, 18, 167–195.
  • Matsson, H., Tammimies, K., Zucchelli, M., Anthoni, H., Onkamo, P., Nopola-Hemmi, J., Lyytinen, H., Leppanen, P.H.T., Neuhoff, N. Warnke, A., Schulte-Körne, G., Schumacher, J., Nöthen, M.M., Kere, J., Peyrard-Janvid, M. (2011). SNP variations in the 7q33 region containing DGKI are associated with dyslexia in the Finnish and German populations. Behavior Genetics, 41, 134–140.
  • McBride-Chang, C., Chen, H. C., Kasisopa, B., Burnham, D., Reilly, R., Leppänen, P., & Frost, R. (2012). What and where is the word?. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 35(5), 295.
  • Pennala, R., Eklund, K., Hämäläinen, J., Richardson, U., Martin, M., Leiwo, M., Leppänen, P.H.T., & Lyytinen, H. (2010). Perception of Phonemic Length and its Relation to Reading and Spelling Skills in Children with Family Risk for Dyslexia in the First Three Grades of school. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 53, 710–724.
  • Pennala, R., Eklund, K., Hämäläinen, J. A., Martin, M., Richardson, U., Leppänen P.H.T., & Lyytinen, H. (accepted for publication). Precursors and Consequences of Phonemic Length Discrimination Ability Problems in Children with Reading Disabilities and a Familial Risk for Dyslexia. Journal of Speech, Language and Hearing Research.
  • Puolakanaho, A., Ahonen, T., Aro, M., Eklund, K., Leppänen, P.H.T., Poikkeus, A-M., Tolvanen, A., Torppa, M., & Lyytinen, H. (2007). Very early phonological and language skills: estimating individual risk of reading disability. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 48, 923–931.
  • Torppa, M., Poikkeus, A-M., Laakso, M-L., Tolvanen, A., Leskinen, E., Leppänen, P.H.T., Puolakanaho, A. & Lyytinen, H. (2007). Modeling the early paths of phonological awareness and factors supporting its development in children with and without familial risk of dyslexia. Scientific Studies Of Reading, 11, 73–103.

In Finnish:

  • Aro, M., Eklund, K., Leppänen, P. H. T., & Poikkeus A-M. (2011). Lukivaikeusriskin arviointi ja lukivaikeuksien tunnistaminen suomen kielessä. Psykologia, 2-3, 92-98.
  • Ervast, L., & Leppänen, P.H.T. (2010). Kielellinen erityisvaikeus [Specific language impairment]. In P. Korpilahti, M. Laine, & O. Aaltonen (Eds.), Kieli ja aivot (pp. 212-221). Turku: Kognitiivisen neurotieteen tutkimuskeskus, Turun yliopisto.
  • Ervast, L., & Leppänen, P.H.T. (2010). Kielellisten erityisvaikeuksien kuntoutus ja harjoitteluvaikutusten neurokognitiivinen arviointi [Neurocognitive assessment of the rehabilitation and training effects on specific language impairment]. In P. Korpilahti, M. Laine, & O. Aaltonen (Eds.), Kieli ja aivot (pp. 301-308). Turku: Kognitiivisen neurotieteen tutkimuskeskus, Turun yliopisto.
  • Hämäläinen, J. A., Leppänen, P. H. T., Lyytinen, H. (2008). Kuulotiedon käsittelyn pulmat lukihäiriön yhteydessä – katsaus teorioihin [Auditory processing in dyslexia: a review on theories]. NMI-Bulletin, 18 (2), 8-22.
  • Hämäläinen, J. A., & Leppänen, P. H. T. (2011). Kuulotiedon perusprosessoinnin ongelmat lukivaikeuden yhteydessä [Basic auditory processing and dyslexia]. Psykologia, 2-3, 124-126.
  • Leppänen, P.H.T, Aro, M., Hämäläinen, J., & Vesterinen, M. (2006). Dysleksia - kehityksellinen lukemisen vaikeus [Dyslexia – developmental reading difficulty]. In H. Hämäläinen, M. Laine, A. Revonsuo & O. Aaltonen (Eds.), Mieli ja aivot: Kognitiivisen neurotieteen oppikirja (pp. 380-389). Turku: Kognitiivisen neurotieteen tutkimuskeskus, Turun yliopisto (Paino: Gummerus Kirjapaino Oy.)
  • Leppänen, P.H.T. & Hämäläinen, J., (2010). Puheen ja kielen aivoperustan mittaus ja kuvantaminen [Imaging the brain basis of speech and language]. In P. Korpilahti, M. Laine, & O. Aaltonen (Eds.), Kieli ja aivot (pp. 68-80). Turku: Kognitiivisen neurotieteen tutkimuskeskus, Turun yliopisto.
  • Leppänen, P. H. T., & Hämäläinen, J. A. (2011). Puheen prosessoinnin poikkeavuus aivotoiminnallisissa ja behavioraalisissa mittauksissa - yhteydet dysleksian riskiin jo vauvana ja lukutaitoihin kouluiässä.[Speech perception measured with brain and behavioral methods – associations to dyslexia and reading skills already at birth]. Psykologia, 2-3, 118-123.
  • Pennala, R., Hämäläinen, J., Leppänen, P.H.T., & Richardson, U. (2011). Äänteiden keston erottelutaidon yhteys luku- ja oikeinkirjoitustaitoon kolmen ensimmäisen kouluvuoden aikana lapsilla, joilla on familiaalinen riski dysleksiaan [Associations between phoneme duration discrimination and reading during the first three school years in children with family history of dyslexia]. Psykologia, 2-3, 127-130.
  • Vilenius-Tuohimaa, P., Leppänen, P.H.T. (2008). Englannin kielen harjoitusohjelma esimerkkinä kielellisten vaikeuksien interventiotutkimuksesta. NMI-Bulletin, 18 (4), 21-31.


  • Advancing brain research in children’s developmental neurocognitive disorders (ChildBrain). (EU H2020 Marie Sklodowska-Curie European Training Network, number 641652, total ETN budget 3,838,339 eur), 1.3.2015-28.2.2019. PI/coordinator of the consortium: Leppänen.
  • Understanding and predicting developmental language abilities and disorders in multilingual Europe (Predictable). EU H2020 Marie Sklodowska-Curie European Training Network, number 641858, total ETN budget 3,848,639 eur), 1.3.2015-28.2.2019. PI/coordinator: Höhle, University of Potsdam, Germany. JYU-PI: Leppänen (role: Partner and WP leader).
  • Internet and learning difficulties: multidisciplinary approach for understanding information seeking in new media (eSeek). (Academy of Finland, 997 351 eur) 1.1.2014-31.12.2017. PI Leppänen.
  • Plasticity and development of the auditory pathway in specific reading disability, Academy of Finland (2009-2011), PI: Jarmo Hämäläinen
  • Dyslexia genes and neurobiological pathways (NEURODYS), EU 6th framework programme in 13 European universities (2006-2009). PI/coordinator: Gerd-Schulte Körne, Munich, Germany.  ERP workpackage, JYU-PI: Paavo Leppänen (role: Partner and WP leader).

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