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Brain activity abnormal in children with delayed speech

OAK BROOK, Ill. Children with unusually delayed speech tend to listen with the right side of the brain rather than the left side of the brain, according to a study published in the December issue of the journal Radiology. Preliminary study results were presented at the Radiological Society of North America's (RSNA) Annual Meeting in 2002.

The research represents the first time functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) has been used to investigate brain activity associated with speech delay. "With the advent of neuroimaging, we saw a new way of looking at language disorders," said Nolan R. Altman, M.D., co-author of the study and chief of radiology at Miami Children's Hospital.

The researchers completed fMRI studies on 17 abnormally speech-delayed children and 35 age-matched children without delayed speech to compare the brain activation patterns between the two groups. To study the brain's reaction to passive language, the children's brains were imaged as they listened to audiotapes of their mothers. The children were between ages 2 and 8 with a mean age of approximately 4 years.

The findings indicated that children with seriously delayed speech have higher levels of right brain lobe activity than children without delayed speech, who tend to use the left side of their brains when they listen. They also found that language-delayed children age 4 and older had less total brain activation than the children in the control group, potentially indicating that speech-delayed children are less receptive to language as they age.

Children typically say their first words by age 1 and advance to simple sentences by age 2 or 3. If a 1-year-old child has not made verbal sounds, or if his or her speech is extremely unclear compared with that of children of similar age, then it may be advisable for parents to consult their family physician or a speech pathologist to determine if the child has a language disorder, according to the researcher
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Contact: Maureen Morley
mmorley@rsna.org
630-590-7754
Radiological Society of North America
25-Nov-2003


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