As our knowledge of the brain continues to grow so does our understanding of human development and learning.  The research study, “Single-neuronal elements of speech production in humans” deepens our understanding of the development and use of language for communication purposes as part of a complex multi-faceted process that involves both ideation and planning.  It highlights that using our pre-frontal cortex allows us to anticipate/predict and plan out what we’re going to express prior to expressing it. 

  • “The study showed how neurons in the brain represent some of the most basic elements involved in constructing spoken words—from simple speech sounds called phonemes to their assembly into more complex strings such as syllables”
  • Looking at “the prefrontal cortex, a frontal region of the human brain, Williams and his colleagues identified cells that are involved in language production and that may underlie the ability to speak”
  • “our brains perform many complex cognitive steps in the production of natural speech—including coming up with the words we want to say, planning the articulatory movements and producing our intended vocalizations,”


These executive functioning processes rely on our prefrontal cortex.  The development of this front part of our brain enables us to perform multistep motor tastes (motor planning and sequencing), and assists in our ability to control and modulate our responses to emotional experiences. The involvement of the prefrontal cortex indicates that using language to communicate is related to the development of our motor system and our ability to plan and sequence our responses/output.  Effectively communicating using language, is more than simply reproducing sounds and words and requires coordinating many parts of our brain to operate together.  “By recording individual neurons, the researchers found that certain neurons become active before this phoneme is spoken out loud. Other neurons reflected more complex aspects of word construction such as the specific assembly of phonemes into syllables.”

Looking at Dr. Greenspan’s foundational learning principle of “getting the child to do the thinking” (Read: Who’s Doing the Thinking?) it’s easy to see why so many children receiving traditional adult led speech and language pathology for a communication disorder, like ASD, develop language and vocabulary, but don’t use the language to consistently communicate and rarely become conversational.  If SLP’s, parents, and educators focus on adult led teaching methodologies where the adult is teaching a child to repeat or reproduce what to do or say, then they are doing the planning (thinking) for the child. They’re diminishing the child’s use of an important part of their brain during the learning process, the prefrontal cortex.  A child learns to repeat sounds and words, but they are not actively using their prefrontal cortex or connecting it to language used for communication by being purposeful and generating their own response.

This research provides further scientific evidence that supports Dr. Stanley Greenspan’s social-emotional framework.  He found that language used for communication stems from connecting the sensory, affect, and motor systems together for a social purpose. This communication begins as a pre-verbal gestural (motor) skill set, expands in proto-conversations, and evolves into linguistic (verbal) ones.

Help your child Relate, Communicate and Think by learning how to APPLY The Greenspan Floortime Approach®.  Register for the Professional or Caregiver/Parent Course at Parents and Professionals can also receive Greenspan Floortime® Expert Tele-Coaching with additional video analysis and feedback.   For in-person Greenspan Floortime® based OT, SLP, Social Group Programs, and coaching contact The Floortime Center®,  

*Understand how Dr. Greenspan’s Greenspan Floortime® is different from ICDL’s DIR®Floortime.