Functional Near Infrared Spectroscopy in Toddlers

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Functional Near Infrared Spectroscopy in Toddlers: neural differentiation of communicative cues and relation to future language abilities.

Dev Sci. 2020 Feb 11;:

Authors: Smith EG, Condy E, Anderson A, Thurm A, Manwaring SS, Swineford L, Gandjbakhche A, Redcay E

Abstract
The toddler and preschool years are a time of significant development in both expressive and receptive communication abilities. However, little is known about the neurobiological underpinnings of language development during this period, likely due to difficulties acquiring functional neuroimaging data. Functional Near Infrared Spectroscopy (fNIRS) is a motion-tolerant neuroimaging technique that assesses cortical brain activity and can be used in very young children. Here, we use fNIRS during perception of communicative and non-communicative speech and gestures in typically developing 2- and 3-year-olds (Study 1, n=15, n=12 respectively) and in a sample of 2-year-olds with both fNIRS data collected at age 2 and language outcome data at age 3 (study 2, n=18). In Study 1, 2- and 3-year-olds differentiated between communicative and noncommunicative stimuli as well as between speech and gestures in the left lateral frontal region. However, 2-year-olds showed different patterns of activation from 3-year-olds in right medial frontal regions. In Study 2, which included two toddlers identified with early language delays along with 16 typically developing toddlers, neural differentiation of communicative stimuli in the right medial frontal region at age 2 predicted receptive language at age 3. Specifically, after accounting for variance related to verbal ability at age 2, increased neural activation for communicative gestures (versus both communicative speech and noncommunicative gestures) at age 2 predicted higher receptive language scores at age 3. These results are discussed in the context of the underlying mechanisms of toddler language development and use of fNIRS in prediction of language outcomes.

PMID: 32048419 [PubMed – as supplied by publisher]

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