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An extensive pattern of atypical neural speech-sound discrimination in newborns at risk of dyslexia

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  • Anja Thiede, University of Helsinki, Finland
  • Paula Virtala, University of Helsinki, Finland
  • Iina Ala-Kurikka, University of Helsinki, Finland
  • Eino Partanen
  • Minna Huotilainen, University of Helsinki, Finland
  • Kaija Mikkola, University of Helsinki, Finland
  • Paavo Leppänen, University of Jyväskylä, Finland
  • Teija Kujala, University of Helsinki, Finland
Objective: Developmental dyslexia is usually associated with deficient neural speech-sound processing. Identifying early signs of dyslexia among the at-risk population is paramount to develop interventions that can be applied before school age. Potential early markers of dyslexia may be detected by assessing neural speech processing deficiencies with the mismatch response (MMR).
Methods: As the first step of a large-scale longitudinal study, we recorded MMRs to a pseudoword and its variants (changes in vowel duration, sound frequency of syllables, and vowel identity) with electroencephalography (EEG) from 88 newborns either at high familial risk, i.e., with a moderately to severely dyslexic parent, or at no risk, i.e., no dyslexia in close relatives.
Results: Abnormal neural discrimination of all speech-sound variants was found in high-risk infants: their MMRs were absent or diminished, had a different morphology and hemispheric lateralization compared to controls.
Conclusions: The results suggest an extensive pattern of atypical neural speech-sound discrimination in high-risk newborns.
Significance: This weak neural basis for speech discrimination may contribute to impaired language development, potentially leading to future reading problems.
Original languageEnglish
JournalClinical Neurophysiology
Pages (from-to)634-646
Number of pages13
Publication statusPublished - May 2019

    Research areas

  • Auditory, Dyslexia, Event-related potential (ERP), Mismatch response (MMR), Newborn, Speech sound

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