We studied gray-white matter and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) alterations that may be critical for language, through an optimized voxel-based morphometry evaluation in children with Specific Language Impairment (SLI), compared to Typical Language Development (TLD). Ten children with SLI (8;5-10;9) and 14 children with TLD (8;2-11;8) participated. They received a comprehensive language and reading test battery. We also analyzed a subgroup of six children with SLI+RD (Reading Disability). Brain images from 3-Tesla MRIs were analyzed with intelligence, age, gender, and total intracranial volume as covariates. Children with SLI or SLI+RD exhibited a significant lower overall gray matter volume than children with TLD. Particularly, children with SLI showed a significantly lower volume of gray matter compared to children with TLD in the right postcentral parietal gyrus (BA4), and left and right medial occipital gyri (BA19). The group with SLI also exhibited a significantly greater volume of gray matter in the right superior occipital gyrus (BA19), which may reflect a brain reorganization to compensate for their lower volumes at medial occipital gyri. Children with SLI+RD, compared to children with TLD, showed a significantly lower volume of: (a) gray matter in the right postcentral parietal gyrus; and (b) white matter in the right inferior longitudinal fasciculus (RILF), which interconnects the temporal and occipital lobes. Children with TLD exhibited a significantly lower CSF volume than children with SLI and children with SLI+RD respectively, who had somewhat smaller volumes of gray matter allowing for more CSF volume. The significant lower gray matter volume at the right postcentral parietal gyrus and greater cerebrospinal fluid volume may prove to be unique markers for SLI. We discuss the association of poor knowledge/visual representations and language input to brain development. Our comorbid study showed that a significant lower volume of white matter in the right inferior longitudinal fasciculus may be unique to children with SLI and Reading Disability. It was significantly associated to reading comprehension of sentences and receptive language composite z-score, especially receptive vocabulary and oral comprehension of stories.
Keywords: Gray matter; Magnetic resonance imaging; Reading Disability; Specific Language Impairment; Voxel-based morphometry; White matter.
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