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Dev Psychol. 2009 Jan;45(1):90-102. doi: 10.1037/a0012848.

Does linguistic input play the same role in language learning for children with and without early brain injury?

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Department of Psychology, University of Chicago, USA.


Children with unilateral pre- or perinatal brain injury (BI) show remarkable plasticity for language learning. Previous work highlights the important role that lesion characteristics play in explaining individual variation in plasticity in the language development of children with BI. The current study examines whether the linguistic input that children with BI receive from their caregivers also contributes to this early plasticity, and whether linguistic input plays a similar role in children with BI as it does in typically developing (TD) children. Growth in vocabulary and syntactic production is modeled for 80 children (53 TD, 27 BI) between 14 and 46 months. Findings indicate that caregiver input is an equally potent predictor of vocabulary growth in children with BI and in TD children. In contrast, input is a more potent predictor of syntactic growth for children with BI than for TD children. Controlling for input, lesion characteristics (lesion size, type, seizure history) also affect the language trajectories of children with BI. Thus, findings illustrate how both variability in the environment (linguistic input) and variability in the organism (lesion characteristics) work together to contribute to plasticity in language learning.

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