To succeed in school children need good fundamental language skills, but they also need the higher order thinking skills needed to link ideas to one another. Project III asks about the relation among language skills in children, their eariy language input from parents, and brain development for higher order thinking. Experience-dependent development plays an important role in the neurobiology of language functions. During adolescence, children continue to acquire complex language skills, and their brains undergo a major rewiring. To understand the type of complex language needed for success in school, children must employ higher order thinking skills needed for complex discourse comprehension, such as making inferences and using schemas. These skills are known to involve additional brain regions beyond those used for single word, sentence, or simple story comprehension, particularly in the frontal lobes. Although there is increasing research in the neurobiology of such complex language processing in adults, there is a paucity of such research in children, and the role of eariy input in molding this process is not known. Although children with pre- or perinatal brain injury exhibit remarkable plasticity for early language skills, they appear to have difficulty with later developing, more complex aspects of language. Thus, for these children, the impact of parental input on brain development could have an even greater impact. Project 1 thus focuses on the neural basis of higher order language comprehension in typically developing children and those with pre- and perinatal brain injuries and the role of eariy parental input in determining the architecture of the neural circuitry to support these functions. Project 1 is a direct complement to Projects I and II, and the questions that we ask relate to the functional neuroanatomical correlates of inference and schema use, h/vo of the critical aspects of higher order thinking needed by children for academic success. Project III has two specific aims. Study 1 characterizes brain structure and function for higher order thinking over development and relates them to behavior. This includes quantification of both gray matter structures and white matter pathways, and of brain function performing higher order language tasks and during the resting state. Study 2 develops a model of cumulative parent input that can be used to predict brain structure and function for higher order thinking in adolescence. The richness of the longitudinal data on which this project is based provides a detailed picture of the eariy influences on regional differences in brain structure and in functional anatomy and connectivity.

Public Health Relevance

The results gained from this research should provide valuable information about how the human brain develops to process language and the role of parental input in that development. The basic scientific studies from the previous grant cycle have led to important findings about the role of various parts of the brain in the development of verbal fluency, discourse comprehension, and reading in children.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development (NICHD)
Research Program Projects (P01)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZHD1-DSR-H (GS))
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University of Chicago
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Demir-Lira, Özlem Ece; Asaridou, Salomi S; Raja Beharelle, Anjali et al. (2018) Functional neuroanatomy of gesture-speech integration in children varies with individual differences in gesture processing. Dev Sci 21:e12648
Glenn, Dana E; Demir-Lira, Özlem Ece; Gibson, Dominic J et al. (2018) Resilience in mathematics after early brain injury: The roles of parental input and early plasticity. Dev Cogn Neurosci 30:304-313
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Demir-Lira, Özlem Ece; Levine, Susan C (2016) Reading Development in Typically Developing Children and Children With Prenatal or Perinatal Brain Lesions: Differential School Year and Summer Growth. J Cogn Dev 17:596-619

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