Language exposure during infancy is negatively associated with white matter microstructure in the arcuate fasciculus

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Abstract

Decades of research have established that the home language environment, especially quality of caregiver speech, supports language acquisition during infancy. However, the neural mechanisms behind this phenomenon remain under studied. In the current study, we examined associations between the home language environment and structural coherence of white matter tracts in 52 typically developing infants from English speaking homes in a western society. Infants participated in at least one MRI brain scan when they were 3, 6, 12, and/or 24 months old. Home language recordings were collected when infants were 9 and/or 15 months old. General linear regression models indicated that infants who heard the most adult words and participated in the most conversational turns at 9 months of age also had the lowest fractional anisotropy in the left posterior parieto-temporal arcuate fasciculus at 24 months. Similarly, infants who vocalized the most at 9 months also had the lowest fractional anisotropy in the same tract at 6 months of age. This is one of the first studies to report significant associations between caregiver speech collected in the home and white matter structural coherence in the infant brain. The results are in line with prior work showing that protracted white matter development during infancy confers a cognitive advantage.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number101240
JournalDevelopmental Cognitive Neuroscience
Volume61
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 The Authors

Keywords

  • Arcuate fasciculus
  • Diffusion tensor imaging
  • Home language environment
  • Infancy
  • Language development

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

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