What Box: A task for assessing language lateralization in young children

Nicholas A. Badcock, Rachael Spooner, Jessica Hofmann, Atlanta Flitton, Scott Elliott, Lisa Kurylowicz, Louise M. Lavrencic, Heather M. Payne, Georgina K. Holt, Anneka Holden, Owen F. Churches, Mark J. Kohler, Hannah A.D. Keage

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


The assessment of active language lateralization in infants and toddlers is challenging. It requires an imaging tool that is unintimidating, quick to setup, and robust to movement, in addition to an engaging and cognitively simple language processing task. Functional Transcranial Doppler Ultrasound (fTCD) offers a suitable technique and here we report on a suitable method to elicit active language production in young children. The 34-second “What Box” trial presents an animated face “searching” for an object. The face “finds” a box that opens to reveal a to-be-labelled object. In a sample of 95 children (1 to 5 years of age), 81% completed the task—32% with ≥10 trials. The task was validated (ρ = 0.4) against the gold standard Word Generation task in a group of older adults (n = 65, 60–85 years of age), though was less likely to categorize lateralization as left or right, indicative of greater measurement variability. Existing methods for active language production have been used with 2-year-old children while passive listening has been conducted with sleeping 6-month-olds. This is the first active method to be successfully employed with infants through to pre-schoolers, forming a useful tool for populations in which complex instructions are problematic.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)391-408
Number of pages18
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished or Issued - 4 Jul 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Language
  • functional transcranial Doppler ultrasound
  • infants
  • lateralization
  • toddlers

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Psychology(all)

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