Poster E44, Monday, March 26, 2:30-4:30 pm, Exhibit Hall C
A double-dissociation of semantic and phonological processing in young children
Yael Weiss-Zruya1, Hannah G. Cweigenberg1, James R. Booth2; 1The University of Texas at Austin, 2Vanderbilt University
Previous studies have investigated specialization for different language processing components in older children and adults. However, this specialization has not yet been investigated in young children. The current study aimed to examine early specialization of different brain regions for phonological and semantic processing of spoken language in young children. Children (5.5-6.5 year-olds, N=35) performed a phonological (same sound judgment) and a semantic (related meaning judgment) auditory word-level task. Using functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI), we directly compared the phonological- and semantic-related activations. A greater phonological- as compared to semantic-related activation was found in the left superior temporal gyrus (STG) and supramarginal gyrus (SMG). In addition, activation in the left superior temporal cortex was related to phonological task difficulty, and phonological awareness performance was correlated with the task difference activation. In contrast, a greater semantic- as compared to phonological-related activation was found in the left middle temporal gyrus (MTG). The left middle temporal cortex activation was also related to semantic task difficulty, and semantic awareness performance was correlated with the task difference activation. In general, the results of this study indicate that by the age of 5-6 years, typically developing children already show some specialization of different brain regions for phonological and semantic processes. This project advances our understanding of the neural mechanisms underlying language acquisition in early childhood, while also laying the groundwork for future investigations of language impairment in this age range.
Topic Area: LANGUAGE: Development & aging