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Cortex. 2000 Feb;36(1):31-46.

Plasticity and reorganization during language development in children with early brain injury.

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  • 1Servizio di Neurologia e Riabilitazione, IRCCS Ospedale Pediatrico Bambino Gesù, Santa Marinella, Roma, Italy.


Although some studies have reported subtle language deficits following early focal brain lesions (EFBL), most studies find no evidence for differential language outcomes as a function of lesion side or lesion type in children with congenital injuries to one side of the brain. However, recent prospective studies of the first stages of language development in English-speaking children with EFBL have reported greater delays in expressive vocabulary in children with left-hemisphere damage, particularly if the lesion involves left temporal cortex. In the present study, first stages in the development of word production were studied in 43 Italian children with congenital EFBL, between 13 and 46 months of age. As a group, the EFBL children were markedly delayed in expressive vocabulary. Among children who were in the first stage of language learning, delays were significantly greater with left-hemisphere injury. However, this left-right difference was not evident in children who had moved on to the next stage of language development, producing at least some sentences. Discussion centers on the role of developmental plasticity in determining the outcomes of early focal brain injury, suggesting that recovery from initial delays may take place in the early stages of language development, at least for some children.

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