Wednesday, June 1, 2022

A Weak Shadow of Early Life Language Processing Persists in the Right Hemisphere

Abstract of article linked above:

Studies of language organization show a striking change in cerebral dominance for language over development: We begin life with a left hemisphere (LH) bias for language processing, which is weaker than that in adults and which can be overcome if there is a LH injury. Over development this LH bias becomes stronger and can no longer be reversed. Prior work has shown that this change results from a significant reduction in the magnitude of language activation in right hemisphere (RH) regions in adults compared to children. Here we investigate whether the spatial distribution of language activation, albeit weaker in magnitude, still persists in homotopic RH regions of the mature brain. Children aged 4–13 (n = 39) and young adults (n = 14) completed an auditory sentence comprehension fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) task. To equate neural activity across the hemispheres, we applied fixed cutoffs for the number of active voxels that would be included in each hemisphere for each participant. To evaluate homotopicity, we generated left-right flipped versions of each activation map, calculated spatial overlap between the LH and RH activity in frontal and temporal regions, and tested for mean differences in the spatial overlap values between the age groups. We found that, in children as well as in adults, there was indeed a spatially intact shadow of language activity in the right frontal and temporal regions homotopic to the LH language regions. After a LH stroke in adulthood, recovering early-life activation in these regions might assist in enhancing recovery of language abilities.

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