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Brain lateralization of phonological awareness varies by maternal education


Younger JWJessica W , Lee KWKeun-Woo , Demir-Lira OEOzlem E , Booth JRJames R . Developmental science. 2019 03 10; 22(6). e12807


Socioeconomic status (SES) has been shown to influence language skills, with children of lower SES backgrounds performing worse on language assessments compared to their higher SES peers. While there is abundant behavioral research on the effects of SES, whether there are differences in the neural mechanisms used to support language skill is less established. In this study, we examined the relation between maternal education (ME), a component of SES, and neural mechanisms of language. We focused on Kindergarten children, at the beginning of formal reading education, and on a pre-reading skill, phonological awareness-the ability to distinguish or manipulate the sounds of language. We determined ME-related differences in neural activity by examining a skill-matched sample of typically achieving 5-year-old children as they performed a rhyme judgment task. We examined brain lateralization in two language processing regions, the inferior frontal gyrus (IFG) and superior temporal gyrus (STG). In the IFG, lateralization was related to ME but not skill: children with low ME showed bilateral activation compared to children with higher ME who showed leftward lateralization. In the STG, there was a skill by ME interaction on lateralization, such that children with high ME showed a positive relation between rightward lateralization and skill and children with low ME showed a positive relation between leftward lateralization and skill. Thus, we demonstrated ME is related to differences in neural recruitment during language processing, yet this difference in recruitment is not indicative of a deficit in linguistic processing in Kindergarten children.