Skip to main content

Probing the neural basis for verbal working memory impairments in developmental language disorders

Final Activity Report Summary - LIMBA (Probing the neural basis for verbal working memory impairments in developmental language disorders)

Some children who are otherwise normal have great difficulty learning to speak or read. They are said to be affected by specific language impairment (SLI). Behavioural measures indicate that many of these children have significant deficits in verbal short-term memory. Barry et al. (2007) showed that English-speaking parents of these children also have poor verbal short-term memory and concluded that these deficits are heritable and are likely to serve as a risk factor for SLI.

The aim of this project was to expand current understanding of the neural basis for heritable deficits in verbal short-term memory using a combination of event-related fMRI and behavioural techniques. At the outset of the project, we predicted that certain regions in the brain involved in information storage would be impaired in the parents of children with SLI. Some of these hypotheses were confirmed, however, we could find little evidence for deviant information processing and all the group differences observed reflected generally reduced hemodynamic responses compared with the control group.

Similarly reduced hemodynamic responses have been reported for children with SLI, but this is the first time that such findings have been observed in their parents. Significantly only one of the parents tested had a history of language impairment. We conclude that reduced hemodynamic responses, perhaps reflecting less efficient neural processing, form the neural basis for heritable specific language impairment.