Background: In a previous study from our lab, adult males with non-syndromic cleft lip and/or palate (NSCLP) were shown to have significantly lower temporal lobe gray matter volume than matched controls. The current study was designed to begin a regional analysis of specific subregions of the temporal lobe. The superior temporal plane (STP) is a brain region involved in the governance of auditory processing and aspects of language. The cognitive deficit of subjects with NSCLP is characterized by specific deficits in language; therefore this region of the temporal lobe is particularly important to investigate in this population. The STP has been found to be structurally abnormal in subjects with dyslexia, another developmental disorder involving language deficit. The hypothesis for the current study was that the STP in subjects with NSCLP would be structurally abnormal and that the abnormality would be related to cognitive deficit, but not to developmental hearing deficit.
Methods: Manual tracing of the STP in NSCLP males and matched controls was performed on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans. Ratios of STP to total temporal lobe gray matter volume were calculated and compared across groups. In addition, the morphology of the STP was correlated to cognitive function as well as measures of hearing deficit during infancy and childhood.
Results: Despite overall deficit in temporal lobe gray matter, the STP is disproportionately large in subjects with NSCLP compared to controls. Further, gray matter volume of the STP was inversely correlated with IQ and language test scores in CLP subjects. Hearing loss throughout childhood and adulthood was not significantly correlated with brain morphology.
Conclusions: The structure of the superior temporal plane in adult males with NSCLP was disproportionately large. This abnormally increased volume was directly related to IQ, with greater STP volume being associated with lower cognitive functioning, thus characterizing the finding as 'pathologic enlargement'. Moreover, there was no relationship between the structure of the STP and measures of childhood hearing impairment, supporting the notion that the language deficits of this population are more likely due to abnormal brain development than to the effects of hearing deficit during childhood.