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<jats:p>Language acquisition appears to rely at least in part on recruiting pre-existing brain structures. We hypothesized that the neural substrate for language can be characterized by distinct, non-trivial network properties of the brain, that modulate language acquisition early in development. We tested whether these brain network properties present at the normal age of birth predicted later language abilities, and whether these were robust against perturbation by studying infants exposed to the extreme environmental stress of preterm birth. We found that brain network controllability and integration predicted respectively phonological, bottom-up and syntactical, top-down language skills at 20 months, and that syntactical but not phonological functions were modulated by premature extrauterine life. These data show that the neural substrate for language acquisition is a network property present at term corrected age. These distinct developmental trajectories may be relevant to the emergence of social interaction after birth.</jats:p>

Original publication




Journal article


Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory