Neurodevelopmental Disorders and Early Language Acquisition

A special issue of Brain Sciences (ISSN 2076-3425). This special issue belongs to the section "Neurolinguistics".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (31 January 2024) | Viewed by 15113

Special Issue Editors

Integrative Neuroscience and Cognition Center - CNRS UMR 8002 CNRS, Université Paris Cité, Paris, France
Interests: early language acquisition; lexical–semantic development; bilingualism

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Guest Editor
Faculty of Health and Education, Manchester Metropolitan University, Manchester, UK
Interests: language development; bilingualism; social communication; multisensory perception

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Guest Editor
1. Department of Phonoaudiology, Faculty of Medicine, University of Chile, Santiago, Chile
2. Department of Neuroscience, Faculty of Medicine, University of Chile, Santiago, Chile
Interests: language development; developmental language disorder; vision and language interaction during development

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Neurodevelopmental disorders are often associated with difficulties in language acquisition. However, developmental and neural mechanisms that lead to these difficulties remain unclear. This Special Issue aims to publish studies on developmental disorders (e.g., ADHD, dyslexia, ASD, and DLD) and their impact on language acquisition. We also focus on studies investigating biological (e.g., premature birth, family’s history of language disorders) and environmental (e.g., parental mental health, stress, or poverty) factors that put young children at risk of developing a language disorder.  We invite contributions investigating language disorders in monolingual and bilingual children from different linguistic backgrounds. Intervention studies (e.g., speech therapy, music interventions) investigating performance or neural correlates of outcomes are highly encouraged. Studies using neurophysiological, neuroimaging, or neuropsychological techniques will be prioritized. The main purpose of this Special Issue is to gain better insight to risks to early language development in different populations and linguistic contexts to better understand the neural underpinnings of language impairments and mechanisms of possible beneficial interventions.

Dr. Pia Rämä
Dr. Louah Sirri
Dr. Andrea Helo
Guest Editors

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Keywords

  • neurodevelopment
  • language development
  • developmental disorders
  • language impairment
  • bilingualism
  • children at risk
  • language interventions

Published Papers (9 papers)

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Research

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16 pages, 1446 KiB  
Article
Procedural Memory Deficits in Preschool Children with Developmental Language Disorder in a Spanish-Speaking Population
by Soraya Sanhueza, Mabel Urrutia and Hipólito Marrero
Brain Sci. 2024, 14(3), 198; https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci14030198 - 22 Feb 2024
Viewed by 693
Abstract
This study aimed to compare procedural learning skills between Spanish-speaking preschool children (ages 4 years to 4 years, 11 months) with developmental language disorder (DLD) and their chronologically matched typically developing (TD) peers. Using the serial reaction time (SRT) task, participants (30 children [...] Read more.
This study aimed to compare procedural learning skills between Spanish-speaking preschool children (ages 4 years to 4 years, 11 months) with developmental language disorder (DLD) and their chronologically matched typically developing (TD) peers. Using the serial reaction time (SRT) task, participants (30 children with DLD and 30 TD children) responded to visual stimuli in a sequenced manner over four blocks, followed by a random order block. The task assessed reaction time (RT) and accuracy. The results showed a significant interaction between group and block for RT and accuracy, with children with DLD exhibiting longer RTs and accuracy deficits across blocks. In contrast, the TD group showed higher RT efficiency and accuracy in the sequential blocks and, as expected, decreased performance in the random block according to the experimental manipulation. Overall, the results of this investigation suggest that there was no implicit learning in the DLD group, as indicated by the SRT task paradigms of procedural memory. These findings align with some aspects of the procedural deficit hypothesis (PDH), which suggests that linguistic deficits in the DLD population may derive from a deficit in sequential learning from the procedural memory system domain in the Spanish context. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Neurodevelopmental Disorders and Early Language Acquisition)
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23 pages, 1881 KiB  
Article
Developmental Dyslexia: Insights from EEG-Based Findings and Molecular Signatures—A Pilot Study
by Daniela Theodoridou, Christos-Orestis Tsiantis, Angeliki-Maria Vlaikou, Vasiliki Chondrou, Victoria Zakopoulou, Pavlos Christodoulides, Emmanouil D. Oikonomou, Katerina D. Tzimourta, Charilaos Kostoulas, Alexandros T. Tzallas, Konstantinos I. Tsamis, Dimitrios Peschos, Argyro Sgourou, Michaela D. Filiou and Maria Syrrou
Brain Sci. 2024, 14(2), 139; https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci14020139 - 28 Jan 2024
Viewed by 1670
Abstract
Developmental dyslexia (DD) is a learning disorder. Although risk genes have been identified, environmental factors, and particularly stress arising from constant difficulties, have been associated with the occurrence of DD by affecting brain plasticity and function, especially during critical neurodevelopmental stages. In this [...] Read more.
Developmental dyslexia (DD) is a learning disorder. Although risk genes have been identified, environmental factors, and particularly stress arising from constant difficulties, have been associated with the occurrence of DD by affecting brain plasticity and function, especially during critical neurodevelopmental stages. In this work, electroencephalogram (EEG) findings were coupled with the genetic and epigenetic molecular signatures of individuals with DD and matched controls. Specifically, we investigated the genetic and epigenetic correlates of key stress-associated genes (NR3C1, NR3C2, FKBP5, GILZ, SLC6A4) with psychological characteristics (depression, anxiety, and stress) often included in DD diagnostic criteria, as well as with brain EEG findings. We paired the observed brain rhythms with the expression levels of stress-related genes, investigated the epigenetic profile of the stress regulator glucocorticoid receptor (GR) and correlated such indices with demographic findings. This study presents a new interdisciplinary approach and findings that support the idea that stress, attributed to the demands of the school environment, may act as a contributing factor in the occurrence of the DD phenotype. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Neurodevelopmental Disorders and Early Language Acquisition)
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22 pages, 1601 KiB  
Article
Declarative Learning Mechanisms Support Declarative but Not Probabilistic Feedback-Based Learning in Children with Developmental Language Disorder (DLD)
by Asiya Gul, Lauren S. Baron, Kelsey B. Black, Annika L. Schafer and Yael Arbel
Brain Sci. 2023, 13(12), 1649; https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci13121649 - 28 Nov 2023
Viewed by 856
Abstract
Declarative and probabilistic feedback-based learning was evaluated in 8–12-year-old school-age children with developmental language disorder (DLD; n = 14) and age-matched children with typical development (TD; n = 15). Children performed a visual two-choice word-learning task and a visual probabilistic classification task while [...] Read more.
Declarative and probabilistic feedback-based learning was evaluated in 8–12-year-old school-age children with developmental language disorder (DLD; n = 14) and age-matched children with typical development (TD; n = 15). Children performed a visual two-choice word-learning task and a visual probabilistic classification task while their electroencephalogram (EEG) was recorded non-invasively from the scalp. Behavioral measures of accuracy and response to feedback, and electrophysiological responses to feedback were collected and compared between the two groups. While behavioral data indicated poorer performance by children with DLD in both learning paradigms, and similar response patterns to positive and negative feedback, electrophysiological data highlighted processing patterns in the DLD group that differed by task. More specifically, in this group, feedback processing in the context of declarative learning, which is known to be dominated by the medial temporal lobe (MTL), was associated with enhanced N170, an event-related brain potential (ERP) associated with MTL activation. The N170 amplitude was found to be correlated with declarative task performance in the DLD group. During probabilistic learning, known to be governed by the striatal-based learning system, the feedback-related negativity (FRN) ERP, which is the product of the cortico-striatal circuit dominated feedback processing. Within the context of probabilistic learning, enhanced N170 was associated with poor learning in the TD group, suggesting that MTL activation during probabilistic learning disrupts learning. These results are interpreted within the context of a proposed feedback parity hypothesis suggesting that in children with DLD, the system that dominates learning (i.e., MTL during declarative learning and the striatum during probabilistic learning) dominates and supports feedback processing. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Neurodevelopmental Disorders and Early Language Acquisition)
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10 pages, 250 KiB  
Article
Language Outcomes of Children Born Very Preterm in Relation to Early Maternal Depression and Anxiety
by Sisan Cuervo, Nancy Creaghead, Jennifer Vannest, Lisa Hunter, Chiara Ionio, Mekibib Altaye and Nehal A. Parikh
Brain Sci. 2023, 13(10), 1355; https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci13101355 - 22 Sep 2023
Viewed by 815
Abstract
Unaddressed maternal psychological distress within the first year postpartum is known to have numerous negative consequences on the child’s developmental outcomes, including language acquisition. This study examined the relationship between early maternal psychosocial factors and the language outcomes of children born very preterm [...] Read more.
Unaddressed maternal psychological distress within the first year postpartum is known to have numerous negative consequences on the child’s developmental outcomes, including language acquisition. This study examined the relationship between early maternal psychosocial factors and the language outcomes of children born very preterm (VPT; ≤32 weeks gestational age). It used data from the Cincinnati Infant Neurodevelopment Early Prediction Study, an ongoing National-Institutes-of-Health-funded prospective, multicenter cohort investigation of VPT infants. A total of 243 (125 boys; 118 girls) children born VPT (M = 29.03 weeks of gestation; SD = 2.47) and their corresponding 207 mothers (34 with multiple infants) were included in this study. We did not find an association between maternal depression or anxiety and Bayley-III (M = 92.3, SD = 18.9) language scores. Additionally, maternal grit and self-efficacy did not modify the relationship between depression and anxiety and language scores. A higher level of maternal education and infant female sex were significantly associated with higher language scores. While preterm birth typically results in higher rates of depression and anxiety for parents, the findings suggest that maternal depression, anxiety, and grit and the self-efficacy of the mothers in this sample did not relate to the language development of their children, independent of maternal education and infant female sex. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Neurodevelopmental Disorders and Early Language Acquisition)
11 pages, 633 KiB  
Article
Probing the Impact of Prematurity on Segmentation Abilities in the Context of Bilingualism
by Elena Berdasco-Muñoz, Valérie Biran and Thierry Nazzi
Brain Sci. 2023, 13(4), 568; https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci13040568 - 28 Mar 2023
Viewed by 1034
Abstract
Infants born prematurely are at a high risk of developing linguistic deficits. In the current study, we compare how full-term and healthy preterm infants without neuro-sensorial impairments segment words from fluent speech, an ability crucial for lexical acquisition. While early word segmentation abilities [...] Read more.
Infants born prematurely are at a high risk of developing linguistic deficits. In the current study, we compare how full-term and healthy preterm infants without neuro-sensorial impairments segment words from fluent speech, an ability crucial for lexical acquisition. While early word segmentation abilities have been found in monolingual infants, we test here whether it is also the case for French-dominant bilingual infants with varying non-dominant languages. These bilingual infants were tested on their ability to segment monosyllabic French words from French sentences at 6 months of (postnatal) age, an age at which both full-term and preterm monolinguals are able to segment these words. Our results establish the existence of segmentation skills in these infants, with no significant difference in performance between the two maturation groups. Correlation analyses failed to find effects of gestational age in the preterm group, as well as effects of the language dominance within the bilingual groups. These findings indicate that monosyllabic word segmentation, which has been found to emerge by 4 months in monolingual French-learning infants, is a robust ability acquired at an early age even in the context of bilingualism and prematurity. Future studies should further probe segmentation abilities in more extreme conditions, such as in bilinguals tested in their non-dominant language, in preterm infants with medical issues, or testing the segmentation of more complex word structures. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Neurodevelopmental Disorders and Early Language Acquisition)
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25 pages, 5572 KiB  
Article
Discriminatory Brain Processes of Native and Foreign Language in Children with and without Reading Difficulties
by Najla Azaiez, Otto Loberg, Kaisa Lohvansuu, Sari Ylinen, Jarmo A. Hämäläinen and Paavo H. T. Leppänen
Brain Sci. 2023, 13(1), 76; https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci13010076 - 30 Dec 2022
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1869
Abstract
The association between impaired speech perception and reading difficulty has been well established in native language processing, as can be observed from brain activity. However, there has been scarce investigation of whether this association extends to brain activity during foreign language processing. The [...] Read more.
The association between impaired speech perception and reading difficulty has been well established in native language processing, as can be observed from brain activity. However, there has been scarce investigation of whether this association extends to brain activity during foreign language processing. The relationship between reading skills and neuronal speech representation of foreign language remains unclear. In the present study, we used event-related potentials (ERPs) with high-density EEG to investigate this question. Eleven- to 13-year-old children typically developed (CTR) or with reading difficulties (RD) were tested via a passive auditory oddball paradigm containing native (Finnish) and foreign (English) speech items. The change-detection-related ERP responses, the mismatch response (MMR), and the late discriminative negativity (LDN) were studied. The cluster-based permutation tests within and between groups were performed. The results showed an apparent language effect. In the CTR group, we found an atypical MMR in the foreign language processing and a larger LDN response for speech items containing a diphthong in both languages. In the RD group, we found unstable MMR with lower amplitude and a nonsignificant LDN response. A deficit in the LDN response in both languages was found within the RD group analysis. Moreover, we observed larger brain responses in the RD group and a hemispheric polarity reversal compared to the CTR group responses. Our results provide new evidence that language processing differed between the CTR and RD groups in early and late discriminatory responses and that language processing is linked to reading skills in both native and foreign language contexts. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Neurodevelopmental Disorders and Early Language Acquisition)
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Review

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24 pages, 2837 KiB  
Review
Social Brain Perspectives on the Social and Evolutionary Neuroscience of Human Language
by Nathan Oesch
Brain Sci. 2024, 14(2), 166; https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci14020166 - 07 Feb 2024
Viewed by 1419
Abstract
Human language and social cognition are two key disciplines that have traditionally been studied as separate domains. Nonetheless, an emerging view suggests an alternative perspective. Drawing on the theoretical underpinnings of the social brain hypothesis (thesis of the evolution of brain size and [...] Read more.
Human language and social cognition are two key disciplines that have traditionally been studied as separate domains. Nonetheless, an emerging view suggests an alternative perspective. Drawing on the theoretical underpinnings of the social brain hypothesis (thesis of the evolution of brain size and intelligence), the social complexity hypothesis (thesis of the evolution of communication), and empirical research from comparative animal behavior, human social behavior, language acquisition in children, social cognitive neuroscience, and the cognitive neuroscience of language, it is argued that social cognition and language are two significantly interconnected capacities of the human species. Here, evidence in support of this view reviews (1) recent developmental studies on language learning in infants and young children, pointing to the important crucial benefits associated with social stimulation for youngsters, including the quality and quantity of incoming linguistic information, dyadic infant/child-to-parent non-verbal and verbal interactions, and other important social cues integral for facilitating language learning and social bonding; (2) studies of the adult human brain, suggesting a high degree of specialization for sociolinguistic information processing, memory retrieval, and comprehension, suggesting that the function of these neural areas may connect social cognition with language and social bonding; (3) developmental deficits in language and social cognition, including autism spectrum disorder (ASD), illustrating a unique developmental profile, further linking language, social cognition, and social bonding; and (4) neural biomarkers that may help to identify early developmental disorders of language and social cognition. In effect, the social brain and social complexity hypotheses may jointly help to describe how neurotypical children and adults acquire language, why autistic children and adults exhibit simultaneous deficits in language and social cognition, and why nonhuman primates and other organisms with significant computational capacities cannot learn language. But perhaps most critically, the following article argues that this and related research will allow scientists to generate a holistic profile and deeper understanding of the healthy adult social brain while developing more innovative and effective diagnoses, prognoses, and treatments for maladies and deficits also associated with the social brain. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Neurodevelopmental Disorders and Early Language Acquisition)
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18 pages, 458 KiB  
Review
The Perfect Match! A Review and Tutorial on Issues Related to Matching Groups in Investigations of Children with Neurodevelopmental Conditions
by David Messer, Lucy A. Henry and Henrik Danielsson
Brain Sci. 2023, 13(10), 1377; https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci13101377 - 27 Sep 2023
Viewed by 829
Abstract
Research concerned with children and young people who have neurodevelopmental disabilities (ND) in relation to early language acquisition usually involves comparisons with matched group(s) of typically developing individuals. In these studies, several important and complex issues need to be addressed. Three major issues [...] Read more.
Research concerned with children and young people who have neurodevelopmental disabilities (ND) in relation to early language acquisition usually involves comparisons with matched group(s) of typically developing individuals. In these studies, several important and complex issues need to be addressed. Three major issues are related to: (1) the choice of a variables on which to carry out group matching; (2) recruiting children into the study; and (3) the statistical analysis of the data. To assist future research on this topic, we discuss each of these three issues and provide recommendations about what we believe to be the best course of action. To provide a comprehensive review of the methodological issues, we draw on research beyond the topic of early language acquisition. Our overall aim is to contribute to research that considers questions about delay or differences in development patterns of development and about identifying potentially causal variables. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Neurodevelopmental Disorders and Early Language Acquisition)
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Other

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20 pages, 510 KiB  
Systematic Review
The Relationship between Language and Technology: How Screen Time Affects Language Development in Early Life—A Systematic Review
by Valentina Massaroni, Valentina Delle Donne, Camillo Marra, Valentina Arcangeli and Daniela Pia Rosaria Chieffo
Brain Sci. 2024, 14(1), 27; https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci14010027 - 25 Dec 2023
Viewed by 3629
Abstract
Screen time refers to the amount of time a child is exposed to a screen, that is, television, computer, smartphone, or any other digital medium. Prolonged screen time in the first years of life may affect a child’s cognitive abilities, especially language acquisition. [...] Read more.
Screen time refers to the amount of time a child is exposed to a screen, that is, television, computer, smartphone, or any other digital medium. Prolonged screen time in the first years of life may affect a child’s cognitive abilities, especially language acquisition. A systematic review was conducted, following the PRISMA-P guidelines, with the aim to explore the available literature relating to the impact of screen time on children’s language development. This review identified 18 articles. The articles reviewed showed that prolonged screen time and exposure to screens in the first 2 years of life can negatively affect language development and communication skills, in terms of comprehension and vocabulary range. In addition, overexposure to screens in the early years can affect overall cognitive development, especially attention to environmental stimuli, social experiences, problem solving, and communication with others, e.g., the alternance of rhythms and roles in a conversation. In conclusion, our systematic review supports the idea that preschool screen time has negative effects on children’s cognitive and language development. Television seems to be the medium most detrimental to children’s skills, as it is used in a passive manner and is often characterised by language and content that do not suit the child’s processing mode. Future studies should increasingly focus on the digital media that children possess at an early age, such as mobile phones and tablets, and on how children relate to the online world, such as social networks. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Neurodevelopmental Disorders and Early Language Acquisition)
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