Resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging is a powerful technique to study the whole-brain neural connectivity that underlies cognitive systems. The present study aimed to define the changes in neural connectivity in their relation to language development. Longitudinal resting-state functional data were acquired from a cohort of preschool children at age 5 and one year later, and changes in functional connectivity were correlated with language performance in sentence comprehension. For this, degree centrality, a voxel-based network measure, was used to assess age-related differences in connectivity at the whole-brain level. Increases in connectivity with age were found selectively in a cluster within the left posterior superior temporal gyrus and sulcus (STG/STS). In order to further specify the connection changes, a secondary seed-based functional connectivity analysis on this very cluster was performed. The correlations between resting-state functional connectivity (RSFC) and language performance revealed developmental effects with age and, importantly, also dependent on the advancement in sentence comprehension ability over time. In children with greater advancement in language abilities, the behavioral improvement was positively correlated with RSFC increase between left posterior STG/STS and other regions of the language network, i.e., left and right inferior frontal cortex. The age-related changes observed in this study provide evidence for alterations in the language network as language develops and demonstrates the viability of this approach for the investigation of normal and aberrant language development.
Keywords: Frontal-to-temporal connection; Intrinsic connectivity; Language development; Preschool children; Resting-state fMRI.
Copyright © 2015 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.