Grantee: Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences
Study Type: Correlational Study
Principal Investigator: Elizabeth Huber, Neva M. Corrigan, Vasily L. Yarnykh, Naja Ferjan Ramírez, Patricia K. Kuhl – University of Washington, Seattle
Project Description: This is a correlational study of parent and child language skills and youth brain development in early childhood for 22 parent-child pairs, as measured by home recordings of parent-child verbal interactions and estimates of white matter myelination as derived from quantitative MRI when the children were two years old.
Key Findings: Parental input is considered a key predictor of language achievement during the first years of life, yet relatively few studies have assessed the effects of parental language input and parent-infant interactions on early brain development. The researchers examined the relationship between measures of parent and child language, obtained from naturalistic home recordings at child ages six, 10, 14, 18, and 24 months, and estimates of white matter myelination, derived from quantitative MRI at age two years (mean = 26.30 months, SD = 1.62, N = 22). Analysis of the white matter focused on dorsal pathways associated with expressive language development and long-term language ability, namely, the left arcuate fasciculus (AF) and superior longitudinal fasciculus (SLF). Frequency of parent-infant conversational turns (CT) uniquely predicted myelin density estimates in both the AF and SLF. Moreover, the effect of CT remained significant while controlling for total adult speech and child speech-related utterances, suggesting a specific role for interactive language experience, rather than simply speech exposure or production. An exploratory analysis of 18 additional tracts, including the right AF and SLF, indicated a high degree of anatomic specificity. Longitudinal analyses of parent and child language variables indicated an effect of CT as early as six months of age, as well as an ongoing effect over infancy. Together, these results link parent-infant conversational turns to white matter myelination at age two years, and suggest that early, interactive experiences with language uniquely contribute to the development of white matter associated with long-term language ability.
Study Citation: Huber, Elizabeth, Neva M. Corrigan, Vasily L. Yarnykh, Naja Ferjan Ramírez, and Patricia K. Kuhl. Journal of Neuroscience, 1 March 2023, 43 (9), pp. 1590-1599; DOI: https://doi.org/10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1043-22.2023.
Full report here.
The Key Findings above were reproduced from the published report and do not necessarily reflect interpretation of Overdeck Family Foundation staff.