Blog Archives

Developmental Sexual Dimorphism of the Oral and Pharyngeal Portions of the Vocal Tract: An Imaging Study

Conclusions: Assessment of developmental sex differences using localized age ranges is effective in unveiling sex differences that growth rate differences may conceal. Findings on the presence of prepubertal sex differences in the oral region of the VT may clarify, in part, the anatomic basis of documented prepubertal acoustic differences.

from the Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research

Neural bases of childhood speech disorders: lateralization and plasticity for speech functions during development

Current models of speech production in adults emphasize the crucial role played by the left perisylvian cortex, primary and pre-motor cortices, the basal ganglia, and the cerebellum for normal speech production. Whether similar brain-behaviour relationships and leftward cortical dominance are found in childhood remains unclear. Here we reviewed recent evidence linking motor speech disorders (apraxia of speech and dysarthria) and brain abnormalities in children and adolescents with developmental, progressive, or childhood-acquired conditions. We found no evidence that unilateral damage can result in apraxia of speech, or that left hemisphere lesions are more likely to result in dysarthria than lesion to the right. The few studies reporting on childhood apraxia of speech converged towards morphological, structural, metabolic or epileptic anomalies affecting the basal ganglia, perisylvian and rolandic cortices bilaterally. Persistent dysarthria, similarly, was commonly reported in individuals with syndromes and conditions affecting these same structures bilaterally. In conclusion, for the first time we provide evidence that longterm and severe childhood speech disorders result predominantly from bilateral disruption of the neural networks involved in speech production.

from Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews

TAK1 Expression in the Cochlea: A Specific Marker for Adult Supporting Cells

Transforming growth factor-β-activated kinase-1 (TAK1) is a mitogen activated protein kinase kinase kinase that is involved in diverse biological roles across species. Functioning downstream of TGF-β and BMP signaling, TAK1 mediates the activation of the c-Jun N-terminal kinase signaling pathway, serves as the target of pro-inflammatory cytokines, such as TNF-α, mediates NF-κβ activation, and plays a role in Wnt/Fz signaling in mesenchymal stem cells. Expression of TAK1 in the cochlea has not been defined. Data mining of previously published murine cochlear gene expression databases indicated that TAK1, along with TAK1 interacting proteins 1 (TAB1), and 2 (TAB2), is expressed in the developing and adult cochlea. The expression of TAK1 in the developing cochlea was confirmed using RT-PCR and immunohistochemistry. Immunolabeling of TAK1 in embryonic, neonatal, and mature cochleas via DAB chromogenic and fluorescent immunohistochemistry indicated that TAK1 is broadly expressed in both the developing otocyst and periotic mesenchyme at E12.5 but becomes more restricted to specific types of supporting cells as the organ of Corti matures. By P1, TAK1 immunolabeling is found in cells of the stria vascularis, hair cells, supporting cells, and Kölliker’s organ. By P16, TAK1 labeling is limited to cochlear supporting cells. In the adult cochlea, TAK1 immunostaining is only present in the cytoplasm of Deiters’ cells, pillar cells, inner phalangeal cells, and inner border cells, with no expression in any other cochlear cell types. While the role of TAK1 in the inner ear is unclear, TAK1 expression may be used as a novel marker for specific sub-populations of supporting cells.

from JARO — Journal of the Association for Research in Otolaryngology

Developmental Plasticity Of Auditory Cortical Inhibitory Synapses

Functional inhibitory synapses form in auditory cortex well before the onset of normal hearing. However, their properties change dramatically during normal development, and many of these maturational events are delayed by hearing loss. Here, we review recent findings on the developmental plasticity of inhibitory synapse strength, kinetics, and GABAA receptor localization in auditory cortex. Although hearing loss generally leads to a reduction of inhibitory strength, this depends on the type of presynaptic interneuron. Furthermore, plasticity of inhibitory synapses also depends on the postsynaptic target. Hearing loss leads reduced GABAA receptor localization to the membrane of excitatory, but not inhibitory neurons. A reduction in normal activity in development can also affect the use-dependent plasticity of inhibitory synapses. Even moderate hearing loss can disrupt inhibitory short- and long-term synaptic plasticity. Thus, the cortex did not compensate for the loss of inhibition in the brainstem, but rather exacerbated the response to hearing loss by further reducing inhibitory drive. Together, these results demonstrate that inhibitory synapses are exceptionally dynamic during development, and deafness-induced perturbation of inhibitory properties may have a profound impact on auditory processing.

from Hearing Research

Why do some children benefit more from testing than others? Gist trace processing to explain the testing effect

Retrieval practice of previously studied information seems to be more effective in the long run than restudying the information – a phenomenon called the testing effect. In the present study, we investigated whether individual differences in the testing effect can be attributed to variation in gist trace processing. One-hundred-thirty-one participants (7–13 years old children) studied twelve DRM word lists in a within-subject design with learning (restudying vs. taking an intervening free recall test) as a factor. Each of the participants took a final yes/no recognition test 1 week after the study phase. A latent class analysis on the final-test data revealed three classes. One class of children did not show a testing effect. In the other two classes strong testing effects emerged, but the magnitude of the effect differed in these two classes. Furthermore, the three classes differed in false recognition of semantically related distractors, suggesting that the testing effect is related to differences in gist processing. We interpreted our findings in terms of fuzzy trace theory.

from the Journal of Memory and Language

Developmental gender differences in the synchronization of auditory event-related oscillations

The results demonstrate that gender differences in auditory ERPs basically originate from a stronger functional synchronization of oscillatory responses generated during stimulus processing.

from Clinical Neurophysiology

Profiles of language development in pre-school children: a longitudinal latent class analysis of data from the Early Language in Victoria Study

Conclusions Developmental profiles show that some pre-schoolers’ language is characterized by periods of accelerated development, slow development and catch-up growth. Given the uncertainty in classifying children into these profiles, use of this knowledge for identifying children who will be impaired on school entry is not straightforward. The findings do, however, indicate greater need for language enrichment programmes among disadvantaged children.

from Child: Care, Health and Development

Temporally selective attention supports speech processing in 3- to 5-year-old children

Recent event-related potential (ERP) evidence demonstrates that adults employ temporally selective attention to preferentially process the initial portions of words in continuous speech. Doing so is an effective listening strategy since word-initial segments are highly informative. Although the development of this process remains unexplored, directing attention to word onsets may be important for speech processing in young children who would otherwise be overwhelmed by the rapidly changing acoustic signals that constitute speech. We examined the use of temporally selective attention in 3- to 5-year-old children listening to stories by comparing ERPs elicited by attention probes presented at four acoustically matched times relative to word onsets: concurrently with a word onset, 100 ms before, 100 ms after, and at random control times. By 80 ms, probes presented at and after word onsets elicited a larger negativity than probes presented before word onsets or at control times. The latency and distribution of this effect is similar to temporally and spatially selective attention effects measured in adults and, despite differences in polarity, spatially selective attention effects measured in children. These results indicate that, like adults, preschool aged children modulate temporally selective attention to preferentially process the initial portions of words in continuous speech.

from Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience

Speech perception in the child brain: Cortical timing and its relevance to literacy acquisition

Speech processing skills go through intensive development during mid-childhood, providing basis also for literacy acquisition. The sequence of auditory cortical processing of speech has been characterized in adults, but very little is known about the neural representation of speech sound perception in the developing brain. We used whole-head magnetoencephalography (MEG) to record neural responses to speech and nonspeech sounds in first-graders (7-8-year-old) and compared the activation sequence to that in adults. In children, the general location of neural activity in the superior temporal cortex was similar to that in adults, but in the time domain the sequence of activation was strikingly different. Cortical differentiation between sound types emerged in a prolonged response pattern at about 250 ms after sound onset, in both hemispheres, clearly later than the corresponding effect at about 100 ms in adults that was detected specifically in the left hemisphere. Better reading skills were linked with shorter-lasting neural activation, speaking for interdependence of the maturing neural processes of auditory perception and developing linguistic skills. This study uniquely utilized the potential of MEG in comparing both spatial and temporal characteristics of neural activation between adults and children. Besides depicting the group-typical features in cortical auditory processing, the results revealed marked interindividual variability in children

from Human Brain Mapping

Impairments in speech and nonspeech sound categorization in children with dyslexia are driven by temporal processing difficulties

Auditory processing problems in persons with dyslexia are still subject to debate, and one central issue concerns the specific nature of the deficit. In particular, it is questioned whether the deficit is specific to speech and/or specific to temporal processing. To resolve this issue, a categorical perception identification task was administered in thirteen 11-year old dyslexic readers and 25 matched normal readers using 4 sound continua: (1) a speech contrast exploiting temporal cues (/bA/-/dA/), (2) a speech contrast defined by nontemporal spectral cues (/u/-/y/), (3) a nonspeech temporal contrast (spectrally rotated/bA/-/da/), and (4) a nonspeech nontemporal contrast (spectrally rotated/u/-/y/). Results indicate that children with dyslexia are less consistent in classifying speech and nonspeech sounds on the basis of rapidly changing (i.e., temporal) information whereas they are unimpaired in steady-state speech and nonspeech sounds. The deficit is thus restricted to categorizing sounds on the basis of temporal cues and is independent of the speech status of the stimuli. The finding of a temporal-specific but not speech-specific deficit in children with dyslexia is in line with findings obtained in adults using the same paradigm (Vandermosten et al., 2010, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 107: 10389–10394). Comparison of the child and adult data indicates that the consistency of categorization considerably improves between late childhood and adulthood, particularly for the continua with temporal cues. Dyslexic and normal readers show a similar developmental progress with the dyslexic readers lagging behind both in late childhood and in adulthood.

from Research in Developmental Disabilities

Dissecting the molecular basis of organ of Corti development: Where are we now?

This review summarizes recent progress in our understanding of the molecular basis of cochlear duct growth, specification of the organ of Corti, and differentiation of the different types of hair cells. Studies of multiple mutations suggest that developing hair cells are involved in stretching the organ of Corti through convergent extension movements.However, Atoh1 null mutants have only undifferentiated and dying organ of Corti precursors but show a near normal extension of the cochlear duct, implying that organ of Corti precursor cells can equally drive this process. Some factors influence cochlear duct growth by regulating the cell cycle and proliferation. Shortened cell cycle and premature cell cycle exit can lead to a shorter organ of Corti with multiple rows of hair cells (e.g., Foxg1 null mice). Other genes affect the initial formation of a cochlear duct with or without affecting the organ of Corti. Such observations are consistent with evolutionary data that suggest some developmental uncoupling of cochlear duct from organ of Corti formation. Positioning the organ of Corti requires multiple genes expressed in the organ of Corti and the flanking region. Several candidate factors have emerged but how they cooperate to specify the organ of Corti and the topology of hair cells remains unclear. Atoh1 is required for differentiation of all hair cells, but regulation of inner versus outer hair cell differentiation is still unidentified. In summary, the emerging molecular complexity of organ of Corti development demands further study before a rational approach towards regeneration of unique types of hair cells in specific positions is possible.

from Hearing Research

The acceleration of spoken-word processing in children’s native-language acquisition: An ERP cohort study

Healthy adults can identify spoken words at a remarkable speed, by incrementally analyzing word-onset information. It is currently unknown how this adult-level speed of spoken-word processing emerges during children’s native-language acquisition. In a picture–word mismatch paradigm, we manipulated the semantic congruency between picture contexts and spoken words, and recorded event-related potential (ERP) responses to the words. Previous similar studies focused on the N400 response, but we focused instead on the onsets of semantic congruency effects (N200 or Phonological Mismatch Negativity), which contain critical information for incremental spoken-word processing. We analyzed ERPs obtained longitudinally from two age cohorts of 40 primary-school children (total n = 80) in a 3-year period. Children first tested at 7 years of age showed earlier onsets of congruency effects (by approximately 70 ms) when tested 2 years later (i.e., at age 9). Children first tested at 9 years of age did not show such shortening of onset latencies 2 years later (i.e., at age 11). Overall, children’s onset latencies at age 9 appeared similar to those of adults. These data challenge the previous hypothesis that word processing is well established at age 7. Instead they support the view that the acceleration of spoken-word processing continues beyond age 7.

from Neuropsychologia

A Comparison of Oral and Written English Styles in African American Students at Different Stages of Writing Development

Conclusion: These results suggest that there is likely a period in writing development when speakers of AAE learn to dialect switch in their writing.

from Language, Speech and Hearing Services in Schools

Handedness for grasping objects and pointing and the development of language in 14-month-old infants

The goal of this study was to evaluate the relationship between object-related handedness and handedness for communicative gestures. We observed 22 infants aged 14 months on a baby laterality test consisting of grasping objects in different conditions, on a pointing task with targets placed out of reach at different spatial positions from left to right, and on word understanding and word production. Results show that 77% of infants pointed to the left, middle, and right targets. The majority of infants were right-handed for pointing—except for the far left target—and, to a lesser extent, for grasping objects, but there was no significant relation between the two measures of handedness. The frequency of pointing tended to be related to the number of words understood, and infants right-handed for pointing understood and produced significantly more words than non-right-handed pointers. These results are interpreted as confirming the link between pointing and language development, and as showing that communicative gesture lateralisation is not a mere consequence of object-related handedness, at least during development. Whether lateralised communicative gesture reinforces a pre-existing tendency to use the right hand to interact with objects remains an open question.

from Laterality: Asymmetries of Body, Brain and Cognition

Cortical reorganization in dyslexic children after phonological training: evidence from early evoked potentials

Brain plasticity was investigated in 14 Italian children affected by developmental dyslexia after 6 months of phonological training. The means used to measure language reorganization was the recognition potential, an early wave, also called N150, elicited by automatic word recognition. This component peaks over the left temporo-occipital cortex and its amplitude depends on linguistic expertise. N150 elicited by written words was measured both in dyslexic children before and after training and in a sample of matched normal readers during phonological, semantic and orthographic tasks. After training, dyslexic children increased their reading speed. Normal readers showed a typical left posterior N150, whereas in dyslexic children it was equally distributed across hemispheres before and shifted to left posterior sites after training. In addition, dyslexics’ left posterior N150 asymmetry on the phonological task after training was significantly correlated with reading speed improvement, that is, those children who showed the greatest left shift in phonological N150 also had the greatest reading speed improvement. Source localization of the N150 component was made with both the Standard Low Resolution Electromagnetic Tomography software and the classical dipole analysis method termed Brain Electrical Source Analysis. The N150 generator lies in the left occipito-temporal cortex (Brodmann areas 39, 37 and 19) in good readers, but in right homologous areas in dyslexic children before training. After the treatment, the dyslexics’ main N150 generator shifted to the left occipito-inferotemporal cortex (namely Brodmann areas 37 and 19) with small differences between tasks. The two source location methods provided consistent, converging solutions. Results add to the current literature on the phonological hypothesis of dyslexia by showing hemispheric reorganization of linguistic networks at the level of early word recognition potential. Furthermore, the present work is the first to investigate brain reorganization in a regular/transparent language like Italian.

from Brain