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How preterm birth may impact language development

Society for Neuroscience

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IMAGE: Development of the left hemisphere temporal plane from 28 weeks to 40 weeks PMA. Heschl's gyrus (demarcated with white dashed lines) is forming by 28 weeks PMA and has an... view more 

Credit: Monson et al., eNeuro (2018)

Altered development of a part of the auditory cortex in preterm infants is associated with poorer language skills in early childhood, finds a brain imaging study of very early-born babies in a neonatal intensive care unit. The research, published in eNeuro, suggests that developmental disturbances to this brain region may underlie speech and language difficulties observed in this population.

The neural machinery that supports hearing is typically functional by 15 weeks before birth, making babies sensitive to speech and language while they are still in the womb. Brian Monson and colleagues used a magnetic resonance imaging technique to track changes in Heschl's gyrus, a part of the brain that contains both the primary auditory cortex (pAC) and nonprimary auditory cortex (nAC), in 90 infants born prior to 30 weeks gestation. They show that the pAC matures earlier but more slowly than the nAC, which changes rapidly in the last 10 weeks of the typical gestation period. Developmental differences in the nAC of preterm infants were associated with reduced expressive language ability, such as gesturing and vocabulary, in a follow-up assessment at two years of age.

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Article: Differential rates of perinatal maturation of human primary and nonprimary auditory cortex
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1523/ENEURO.0380-17.2017
Corresponding author: Brian Monson (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA), monson@illinois.edu

About eNeuro

eNeuro, the Society for Neuroscience's new open-access journal launched in 2014, publishes rigorous neuroscience research with double-blind peer review that masks the identity of both the authors and reviewers, minimizing the potential for implicit biases. eNeuro is distinguished by a broader scope and balanced perspective achieved by publishing negative results, failure to replicate or replication studies. New research, computational neuroscience, theories and methods are also published.

About The Society for Neuroscience

The Society for Neuroscience is the world's largest organization of scientists and physicians devoted to understanding the brain and nervous system. The nonprofit organization, founded in 1969, now has nearly 37,000 members in more than 90 countries and over 130 chapters worldwide.

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