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Electrical brain responses in language-impaired children reveal grammar-specific deficits.

Fonteneau, E; van der Lely, H; (2008) Electrical brain responses in language-impaired children reveal grammar-specific deficits. PLoS One , 3 (3) , Article e1832. 10.1371/journal.pone.0001832. Green open access

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Background: Scientific and public fascination with human language have included intensive scrutiny of language disorders as a new window onto the biological foundations of language and its evolutionary origins. Specific language impairment (SLI), which affects over 7% of children, is one such disorder. SLI has received robust scientific attention, in part because of its recent linkage to a specific gene and loci on chromosomes and in part because of the prevailing question regarding the scope of its language impairment: Does the disorder impact the general ability to segment and process language or a specific ability to compute grammar? Here we provide novel electrophysiological data showing a domain-specific deficit within the grammar of language that has been hitherto undetectable through behavioural data alone. Methods and Findings: We presented participants with Grammatical(G)-SLI, age-matched controls, and younger child and adult controls, with questions containing syntactic violations and sentences containing semantic violations. Electrophysiological brain responses revealed a selective impairment to only neural circuitry that is specific to grammatical processing in G-SLI. Furthermore, the participants with G-SLI appeared to be partially compensating for their syntactic deficit by using neural circuitry associated with semantic processing and all non-grammar-specific and low-level auditory neural responses were normal. Conclusions: The findings indicate that grammatical neural circuitry underlying language is a developmentally unique system in the functional architecture of the brain, and this complex higher cognitive system can be selectively impaired. The findings advance fundamental understanding about how cognitive systems develop and all human language is represented and processed in the brain.

Type: Article
Title: Electrical brain responses in language-impaired children reveal grammar-specific deficits.
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0001832
Publisher version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0001832
Language: English
Additional information: Copyright: © 2008 Fonteneau, van der Lely. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited. Funding: This research and both authors were supported by a Wellcome Trust University Award (Grant No: 063713) to Heather van der Lely.
Keywords: Language, Specific Language Impairment, Children, ERP, brain imaging
URI: http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/177540
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