Professor Usha Goswami


Yidan Prize for Education Research




Investigating the neural bases of developmental language disorders



Judge's citation

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Professor Usha Goswami

Professor of Cognitive Developmental Neuroscience, University of Cambridge


Literacy for all; Language learning; Cognitive developmental neuroscience

Using neuroscience to understand and improve language learning

Professor Usha Goswami’s work goes to the heart—and the start—of learning. Her research asks: how do we first pick up language? And what’s happening in the brain when a child’s language learning is developmentally different from most of their peers? The more we know about the earliest stages of education, the better we can design interventions that support all children’s learning—and act faster to stop some students falling behind.


Using brain imaging while children take part in simple listening activities, Usha and her team are building up a picture of how rhythm helps children learn and process speech—and how they relate speech sounds to written words. Their work reveals why the exaggerated rhythms of baby talk and nursery rhymes are so essential to language development in infants and young children. And children with dyslexia struggle to hear rhythmic patterns at the same rate as their typically developing peers.


Usha stresses the value of play-based learning and human interaction for a child’s development. From her perspective, parents, siblings, and peers play a role in learning oral language that technology alone can’t. But families can also use emerging technologies to support their children’s development. To that end, Usha developed a script for GraphoGame, an app that teaches children early literacy skills and offers parents and teachers analysis that can help them spot and tackle bottlenecks in learning quickly.


Usha was elected a Fellow of the British Academy in 2013, a Fellow of the German National Academy in 2020, a Fellow of the Royal Society London in 2021, and was also made a Commander of the British Empire in the Queen’s New Years Honours in 2021. She has given talks on neuroscience and learning in numerous countries’ governments and organizations, has published 8 books and over 180 research papers, and has written widely for educators and for the public.

Professor Goswami is at the frontier of developing a new science around education, using cutting-edge imaging technology to help us understand how the brain actually learns.

Andreas Schleicher

Panel Head, Judging Panel for Education Research, Yidan Prize

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Supported by the Yidan Prize project funds
Investigating the neural bases of developmental language disorders

Knowing the roots of language learning helps us spot developmental language disorders early and act to help children access education.



More about Professor Usha Goswami


2019 Yidan Prize for Education Research Laureate


Meet Professor Usha Goswami


Acceptance Speech