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Journal Article

Brain structural correlates of complex sentence comprehension in children

MPS-Authors
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Fengler,  Anja
Department Neuropsychology, MPI for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Max Planck Society;

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Meyer,  Lars
Department Neuropsychology, MPI for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Max Planck Society;

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Friederici,  Angela D.
Department Neuropsychology, MPI for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Max Planck Society;

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Citation

Fengler, A., Meyer, L., & Friederici, A. D. (2015). Brain structural correlates of complex sentence comprehension in children. Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience, 15, 48-57. doi:10.1016/j.dcn.2015.09.004.


Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-0028-64A3-F
Abstract
Prior structural imaging studies found initial evidence for the link between structural gray matter changes and the development of language performance in children. However, previous studies generally only focused on sentence comprehension. Therefore, little is known about the relationship between structural properties of brain regions relevant to sentence processing and more specific cognitive abilities underlying complex sentence comprehension. In this study, whole-brain magnetic resonance images from 59 children between 5 and 8 years were assessed. Scores on a standardized sentence comprehension test determined grammatical proficiency of our participants. A confirmatory factory analysis corroborated a grammar-relevant and a verbal working memory-relevant factor underlying the measured performance. Voxel-based morphometry of gray matter revealed that while children's ability to assign thematic roles is positively correlated with gray matter probability (GMP) in the left inferior temporal gyrus and the left inferior frontal gyrus, verbal working memory-related performance is positively correlated with GMP in the left parietal operculum extending into the posterior superior temporal gyrus. Since these areas are known to be differentially engaged in adults’ complex sentence processing, our data suggest a specific correspondence between children's GMP in language-relevant brain regions and differential cognitive abilities that guide their sentence comprehension.