Poster B41, Sunday, March 25, 8:00-10:00 am, Exhibit Hall C
Relationships between white matter in infancy and subsequent language abilities in preschool
Jennifer Zuk1,2, Michael Figuccio1, Xi Yu1, Joseph Sanfilippo1, Jade Dunstan1, Clarisa Carruthers1, Ellen Grant1,2, Nadine Gaab1,2,3; 1Boston Children's Hospital, 2Harvard Medical School, 3Harvard Graduate School of Education
A rich body of evidence has identified the neural basis for language that is already present before birth, and longitudinal studies have found that behavioral and neural responses to language-related stimuli in infancy predict language abilities in preschool. To date, neuroimaging studies have predominantly employed electrophysiological methods with infants to characterize brain activity, whereas brain structure and its relation to subsequent language development remains understudied. Therefore, the present study investigates how brain structure in infancy relates to emerging language abilities in preschool. This study draws from an ongoing longitudinal investigation of infants with and without familial risk for dyslexia. Initially, structural neuroimaging was successfully acquired with infants (ages 4-18 months) using a natural sleep technique. Automated Fiber Quantification was employed to estimate white matter properties of language-related tracts from diffusion weighted images. Infants were then longitudinally enrolled and reinvited for follow-up assessment in preschool. To date, 25 follow-ups (mean age: 5.5 yrs, age range: 4–6.5 yrs) have completed a comprehensive language evaluation. Longitudinal analyses establish significant relationships between (i) the left arcuate fasciculus in infancy and vocabulary knowledge in preschool, and (ii) the posterior corpus callosum in infancy and phonological awareness abilities in preschool. Preliminary findings suggest that properties of white matter in language-related tracts predict language abilities in preschool. This research has the potential to uncover white matter properties in infancy that underlie the developmental trajectory of typical and atypical language development in early childhood, and further consider the role of early brain structure in shaping subsequent language outcomes.
Topic Area: LANGUAGE: Development & aging