Inner versus Overt Speech Production

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Inner versus Overt Speech Production: Does This Make a Difference in the Developing Brain?

Abstract
Studies in adults showed differential neural processing between overt and inner speech. So far, it is unclear whether inner and overt speech are processed differentially in children. The present study examines the pre-activation of the speech network in order to disentangle domain-general executive control from linguistic control of inner and overt speech production in 6- to 7-year-olds by simultaneously applying electroencephalography (EEG) and functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS). Children underwent a picture-naming task in which the pure preparation of a subsequent speech production and the actual execution of speech can be differentiated. The preparation phase does not represent speech per se but it resembles the setting up of the language production network. Only the fNIRS revealed a larger activation for overt, compared to inner, speech over bilateral prefrontal to parietal regions during the preparation phase. Findings suggest that the children’s brain can prepare the subsequent speech production. The preparation for overt and inner speech requires different domain-general executive control. In contrast to adults, the children´s brain did not show differences between inner and overt speech when a concrete linguistic content occurs and a concrete execution is required. This might indicate that domain-specific executive control processes are still under development.

PMID: 33291489 [PubMed]

Brain Sci. 2020 Dec 05;10(12):

Authors: Stephan F, Saalbach H, Rossi S

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