We present the first direct comparison of language production in brain-injured children and adults, using age-corrected z scores for multiple lexical and grammatical measures. Spontaneous speech samples were elicited in a structured biographical interview from 38 children (5-8 years of age), 24 with congenital left-hemisphere damage (LHD) and 14 with congenital right-hemisphere damage (RHD), compared with 38 age- and gender-matched controls, 21 adults with unilateral injuries (14 LHD and 7 RHD), and 12 adult controls. Adults with LHD showed severe and contrasting profiles of impairment across all measures (including classic differences between fluent and nonfluent aphasia). Adults with RHD (and three nonaphasic adults with LHD) showed fluent but disinhibited and sometimes empty speech. None of these qualitative or quantitative deviations were observed in children with unilateral brain injury, who were in the normal range for their age on all measures. There were no significant differences between children with LHD and RHD on any measure. When LHD children were compared directly with LHD adults using age-corrected z scores, the children scored far better than their adult counterparts on structural measures. These results provide the first systematic confirmation of differential free-speech outcomes in children and adults and offer strong evidence for neural and behavioral plasticity following early brain damage.
Copyright 2001 Academic Press.