Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Grappling With Grammar: How The Brain Copes In Language-impaired Kids

Date:
March 13, 2008
Source:
University College London
Summary:
Researchers have discovered that a system in the brain for processing grammar is impaired in some children with specific language impairment, but that these children compensate with a different brain area. The findings offer new hope for sufferers of with specific language impairment, which affects seven percent of children and is a major cause of many not reaching their educational potential.

Researchers at UCL (University College London) have discovered that a system in the brain for processing grammar is impaired in some children with specific language impairment (SLI), but that these children compensate with a different brain area. The findings offer new hope for sufferers of SLI, which affects seven per cent of children and is a major cause of many not reaching their educational potential. To date, it has not been clear whether these children generally struggle to process language, or whether they have specific problems with grammar. The UCL findings reveal the latter for a sub-group (G-SLI), and suggest that educational methods that enhance these compensatory mechanisms may help such children overcome their difficulties.

Related Articles


Grammar is a complex and exclusively human ability, yet by the age of three most children can make grammatically correct sentences. Children with G-SLI, however, continue to make grammatical errors, sometimes into adulthood. As teenagers they might make errors that other children rarely make after age five; for example, they may struggle to understand who 'him' or 'himself' refers to in the sentence "Mowgli said Baloo was tickling him/himself", or when asking a question say "Who Joe see someone?" rather than "Who did Joe see?".

In the UCL study, funded by the Wellcome Trust, electrophysiological brain measurements of children with SLI showed normal responses for a variety of language tasks, but a specific deficit in brain circuitry involved in grammatical processing. The study also found that the G-SLI children appeared to be partially compensating by using neural circuitry associated with vocabulary/word meaning or world knowledge (semantic processing). For example, a child could work out the meaning of "The baby was carried by the old man" but not "The girl was pushed by the boy". The latter sentence requires knowledge of grammar to understand who is doing what to whom.

Professor Heather van der Lely, Director of the UCL Centre for Developmental Language Disorders & Cognitive Neuroscience, says: "Specific language impairment is not as well known as autism, yet the disorder affects seven times as many children, and prevents them reaching their potential.

"We have discovered that a number of these children have specific problems with grammar, reflected in our measurements of a circuit in the brain which appears to be uniquely involved in grammar. G-SLI children with a deficit here appear to be compensating by harnessing another brain area involved in general word processing. Not only does this offer an intriguing insight into how such children may be coping with language, but it suggests a new way is needed to help them to overcome their difficulties in broader education.

"Government departments are starting to recognise the problem, but we need more resources. Our results suggest that enhanced general language teaching is unlikely to help -- these children need focussed and specialised help. It is not a question of giving these children more of the same, but re-directing them to use the skills they do have to understand and communicate. Surprisingly, only a handful of experts in the world are conducting brain research into children with SLI."

If parents think that their child might have or has SLI, they should seek referral to a speech and language therapist.

Journal reference: Elisabeth Fonteneau, Heather K. J. van der Lely, Electrical Brain Responses in Language-Impaired Children Reveal Grammar-Specific Deficits.

http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0001832

Professor van der Lely will be speaking about her research at a UCL Lunch Hour Lecture, 'Living without a language instinct', on Thursday 13 March 2008 at University College London.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University College London. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University College London. "Grappling With Grammar: How The Brain Copes In Language-impaired Kids." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 13 March 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/03/080311215705.htm>.
University College London. (2008, March 13). Grappling With Grammar: How The Brain Copes In Language-impaired Kids. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 24, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/03/080311215705.htm
University College London. "Grappling With Grammar: How The Brain Copes In Language-impaired Kids." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/03/080311215705.htm (accessed October 24, 2014).

Share This



More Mind & Brain News

Friday, October 24, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Academic Scandal Shocks UNC

Academic Scandal Shocks UNC

AP (Oct. 23, 2014) A scandal involving bogus classes and inflated grades at the University of North Carolina was bigger than previously reported, a new investigation found. (Oct. 23) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Working Mother Getaway: Beaches Turks & Caicos

Working Mother Getaway: Beaches Turks & Caicos

Working Mother (Oct. 22, 2014) Feast your eyes on this gorgeous family-friendly resort. Video provided by Working Mother
Powered by NewsLook.com
What Your Favorite Color Says About You

What Your Favorite Color Says About You

Buzz60 (Oct. 22, 2014) We all have one color we love to wear, and believe it or not, your color preference may reveal some of your character traits. In celebration of National Color Day, Krystin Goodwin (@kyrstingoodwin) highlights what your favorite colors may say about you. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
First-Of-Its-Kind Treatment Gives Man Ability To Walk Again

First-Of-Its-Kind Treatment Gives Man Ability To Walk Again

Newsy (Oct. 21, 2014) A medical team has for the first time given a man the ability to walk again after transplanting cells from his brain onto his severed spinal cord. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins