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Poster A159

Beyond language abilities: Subtle qualitative impairments in semantic networks and atypical multisensory processes in 8-year-old very preterm children

Poster Session A - Saturday, April 13, 2024, 2:30 – 4:30 pm EDT, Sheraton Hall ABC

Marion Décaillet1,2 (, Micah M. Murray1,2,3, Alexander P. Christensen4, Laureline Besuchet1,2, Cléo Huguenin-Virchaux1,2, Céline J. Fischer Fumeaux1, Solange Denervaud1,3, Juliane Schneider1,2; 1Lausanne University Hospital and University of Lausanne, Switzerland, 2The Sense Innovation and Research Center, Lausanne and Sion, Switzerland, 3CIBM Center for Biomedical Imaging, Lausanne, Switzerland, 4Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN, USA

Very-preterm children (VPT; <32 weeks gestational age) present more language weaknesses, measured through quantitative tools, compared to full-term children. However, qualitative aspects such as semantic memory organization remains unstudied. Arguably, it is during childhood that the greatest number of concepts are acquired, the way they are organized allows children to make associations and retrieve information more readily. Therefore, some cognitive deficits observed in VPT children may stem from altered semantic networks. Here, we assessed the semantic network of 38 VPT schoolchildren compared to 38 full-term schoolchildren using a verbal fluency task. While we observed no differences between VPT and full-term children regarding the distance between concepts and their modularity (i.e., vocabulary enrichment), VPT children exhibited a lower interconnected semantic network at a local level. Therefore, with these less embedded concepts, information is more difficult to retrieve. Additionally, as language and memory impairments are known to be linked to multisensory difficulties, we completed these alterations with metrics of multisensory integration. Based on data from a subset of 25 VPT children who performed a simple detection task with auditory, visual, and audiovisual stimuli, we found that VPT children were slower and that their multisensory gain was not explained by integrative processes, unlike full-term children. These findings provide one of the first evidence that VPT children demonstrate subtle impairments in the organization of semantic network alongside atypical multisensory profiles. It supports the adaptation of the support and education they receive by focusing more on meaning and integrating new words while engaging multiple senses.

Topic Area: LANGUAGE: Other


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April 13–16  |  2024