Phonological and Semantic Specialization in 9- to 10-Year-Old Children During Auditory Word Processing
- PMID: 37229511[PubMed].
One of the core features of brain maturation is functional specialization. Previous research has found that 7- to 8-year-old children start to specialize in both the temporal and frontal lobes. However, as children continue to develop their phonological and semantic skills rapidly until approximately 10 years old, it remained unclear whether any changes in specialization later in childhood would be detected. Thus, the goal of the current study was to examine phonological and semantic specialization in 9- to 10-year-old children during auditory word processing. Sixty-one children were included in the analysis. They were asked to perform a sound judgment task and a meaning judgment task, each with both hard and easy conditions to examine parametric effects. Consistent with previous results from 7- to 8-year-old children, direct task comparisons revealed language specialization in both the temporal and frontal lobes in 9- to 10-year-old children. Specifically, the left dorsal inferior frontal gyrus showed greater activation for the sound than the meaning task whereas the left middle temporal gyrus showed greater activation for the meaning than the sound task. Interestingly, in contrast to the previously reported finding that 7- to 8-year-old children primarily engage a general control region during the harder condition for both tasks, we showed that 9- to 10-year-old children recruited language-specific regions to process the more difficult task conditions. Specifically, the left superior temporal gyrus showed greater activation for the phonological parametric manipulation whereas the left ventral inferior frontal gyrus showed greater activation for the semantic parametric manipulation.