Poster F60, Tuesday, March 28, 8:00 – 10:00 am, Pacific Concourse
Speeded phonological processing in children with Tourette syndrome
Cristina Dye1, Matthew Walenski2, Stewart H. Mostofsky3, Michael T. Ullman4; 1Newcastle University, 2Northwestern University, 3Johns Hopkins University, 4Georgetown University
Tourette syndrome (TS) is characterized by motor and vocal tics, and is associated with frontal/basal ganglia abnormalities. Whereas previous research has revealed various cognitive strengths in other neurodevelopmental disorders, less attention has been paid to potential strengths in TS. Additionally, there is very little evidence of strengths in the verbal domain in any neurodevelopmental disorder. One exception is a previous finding of faster production by children with TS than typically-developing (TD) children of rule-governed morphological forms that involve composition (e.g., “walked”). Here we examined whether this strength in morphology might extend to another key domain of language: phonology (sound structure). Thirteen children with TS (mean age 12) and 14 age-matched TD children were given a non-word repetition task, in which they repeated complex phonological sequences (e.g., “naichovabe”). Previous evidence suggests that this task taps rule-governed (de)composition. Whereas the groups did not differ in accuracy, the children with TS were significantly faster. The results were not explained by potentially confounding variables, including IQ. The findings are striking both because they parallel those found for morphology, and because this task is typically impaired in neurodevelopmental disorders. We suggest that the morphological and phonological speeding in TS, as well as various other speeded behaviors previously reported in the disorder, may be best explained by the same frontal/basal ganglia abnormalities that lead to tics – which are fast and at least partly voluntary. It remains to be seen whether these brain abnormalities also lead to speeded behaviors of other functions that depend on this circuitry.
Topic Area: LANGUAGE: Development & aging