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Grammar Predicts Procedural Learning and Consolidation Deficits in Children with Specific Language Impairment

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Cristina Dye

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Abstract

The Procedural Deficit Hypothesis (PDH) posits that Specific Language Impairment (SLI) can be largely explained by abnormalities of brain structures that subserve procedural memory. The PDH predicts impairments of procedural memory itself, and that such impairments underlie the grammatical deficits observed in the disorder. Previous studies have indeed reported procedural learning impairments in SLI, and have found that these are associated with grammatical difficulties. The present study extends this research by examining the consolidation and longer-term procedural sequence learning in children with SLI. The Alternating Serial Reaction Time (ASRT) task was given to children with SLI and typically-developing (TD) children in an initial learning session and an average of three days later to test for consolidation and longer-term learning. Although both groups showed evidence of initial sequence learning, only the TD children showed clear signs of consolidation, even though the two groups did not differ in longer-term learning. When the children were re-categorized on the basis of grammar deficits rather than broader language deficits, a clearer pattern emerged. Whereas both the grammar impaired and normal grammar groups showed evidence of initial sequence learning, only those with normal grammar showed consolidation and longer-term learning. Indeed, the grammar-impaired group appeared to lose any sequence knowledge gained during the initial testing session. These findings held even when controlling for vocabulary or a broad non-grammatical language measure, neither of which were associated with procedural memory. When grammar was examined as a continuous variable over all children, the same relationships between procedural memory and grammar, but not vocabulary or the broader language measure, were observed. Overall, the findings support and further specify the PDH. They suggest that consolidation and longer-term procedural learning are impaired in SLI, but that these impairments are specifically tied to the grammatical deficits in the disorder. The possibility that consolidation and longer-term learning are problematic in the disorder suggests a locus of potential study for therapeutic approaches. In sum, this study clarifies our understanding of the underlying deficits in SLI, and suggests avenues for further research.


Publication metadata

Author(s): Hedenius M, Persson J, Tremblay A, Adi-Japha E, VerĂ­ssimo J, Dye CD, Alm P, Jennische M, Tomblin B, Ullman MT

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Research in Developmental Disabilities

Year: 2011

Volume: 32

Issue: 6

Pages: 2362-2375

Print publication date: 12/08/2011

ISSN (print): 0891-4222

ISSN (electronic): 1873-3379

Publisher: Pergamon

URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ridd.2011.07.026

DOI: 10.1016/j.ridd.2011.07.026


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