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Dev Cogn Neurosci. 2012 Feb 15;2 Suppl 1:S114-28. doi: 10.1016/j.dcn.2011.10.002. Epub 2011 Oct 25.

Differences in neural activation between preterm and full term born adolescents on a sentence comprehension task: implications for educational accommodations.

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Department of Pediatrics, Stanford University School of Medicine, Palo Alto, CA 94304, United States.


Adolescent survivors of preterm birth experience persistent functional problems that negatively impact academic outcomes, even when standardized measures of cognition and language suggest normal ability. In this fMRI study, we compared the neural activation supporting auditory sentence comprehension in two groups of adolescents (ages 9-16 years); sentences varied in length and syntactic difficulty. Preterms (n=18, mean gestational age 28.8 weeks) and full terms (n=14) had scores on verbal IQ, receptive vocabulary, and receptive language tests that were within or above normal limits and similar between groups. In early and late phases of the trial, we found interactions by group and length; in the late phase, we also found a group by syntactic difficulty interaction. Post hoc tests revealed that preterms demonstrated significant activation in the left and right middle frontal gyri as syntactic difficulty increased. ANCOVA showed that the interactions could not be attributed to differences in age, receptive language skill, or reaction time. Results are consistent with the hypothesis that preterm birth modulates brain-behavior relations in sentence comprehension as task demands increase. We suggest preterms' differences in neural processing may indicate a need for educational accommodations, even when formal test scores indicate normal academic achievement.

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