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Brain Lang. 2004 Feb;88(2):215-28.

Grammaticality sensitivity in children with early focal brain injury and children with specific language impairment.

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  • 1School of Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences, San Diego State University, San Diego, CA 92182-1518, USA.


Grammaticality judgments and processing times associated with violation detection were examined in typically developing children, children with focal brain lesions (FL) acquired early in life, and children with specific language impairment (SLI). Grammatical sensitivity in the FL group, while below typically developing children, was above levels seen in children with SLI. Age effects were noted with developmental changes in sensitivity extending into adolescence. Developmental delays in grammatical processing were particularly pronounced for children with SLI, who showed sensitivity levels below those of younger typically developing children. Sensitivity to agreement violations was also protracted in the SLI group providing further evidence of the vulnerability of morphology, a pattern not unlike that seen in adult aphasics. Findings for the FL group provide compelling evidence of neural and behavioral plasticity in children with early unilateral brain injury. Moreover, results from these children underscore how very different compensatory organization may be compared to profiles seen in adult aphasics who have comparable lesions. In contrast, although it was expected that the SLI children would perform below the typically developing children, the disadvantage seen with respect to the FL group suggests that the underlying pathology responsible for SLI may be more pervasive and less plastic than the focal pathology of children with early brain damage.

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