Children with specific language impairment (SLI) experience difficulties in understanding and/or producing spoken language despite having normal hearing and nonverbal intelligence with no obvious neurological deficits. They are also at high risk for subsequent literacy problems. The underlying deficits of social cognition and executive function in language processing have been discussed recently. The main purposes of the project were to examine the extent and nature of language difficulties, social cognition abilities, and executive functions in 62 9 to 11-year-old children with SLI at behavioral and neural activation levels (31 participants in each group). At the behavioral level, various aspects of language abilities (i.e., comprehension, morphological syntactic, and pragmatic abilities), Theory of Mind understanding (i.e., Faux pas), and executive functions (i.e., spatial/auditory working memory, planning, and shifting) were assessed to examine the group differences. At the neural activation level, the elicited neural activations or patterns by the specific language processing (i.e., categorical speech perception) and executive functioning (i.e., auditory working memory) were collected in the fMRI tasks. The results indicated that Mandarin-speaking children with SLI exhibited poorer language processing, social cognition, and executive functions, including language comprehension, morphological awareness, listening and reading comprehension, narrative, pragmatic abilities, Theory of Mind understanding, auditory working memory, cognitive planning and shifting abilities. Moreover, these aspects of abilities were inter-correlated, specifically, the abilities of Theory of Mind understanding and executive function could predict language development. The neuroimaging results showed more widely recruitment of the auditory association area (i.e., superior temporal gyrus), inferior frontal gyrus (IFG), Insula, and Inferior parietal lobule (IPL) in speech processing and working memory tasks in children with SLI when compared to their typical controls. Interestingly, the activation level of specific brain regions (i.e., superior temporal gyrus, Insula) were associated with the language abilities measured in the behavioral tasks. In conclusion, the results of this research project further expand our understanding to the underling executive function and social cognitive mechanisms of language difficulties shown in Mandarin-speaking SLI at both behavioral and neural activation levels. The better understanding of potential causal links among these developmental factors to language impairment in children with SLI may facilitate the early identification and effective interventions in the near future.
|Effective start/end date||2017/01/01 → 2019/12/31|
- children with specific language impairment
- language processing
- executive function
- theory of mind
- functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI)
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