Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience
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We used event-related potentials (ERPs) to compare auditory word recognition in children with specific language impairment (SLI group; N=14) to a group of typically developing children (TD group; N=14). Subjects were presented with pictures of items and heard auditory words that either matched or mismatched the pictures. Mismatches overlapped expected words in word-onset (cohort mismatches; see: DOLL, hear: dog), rhyme (CONE -bone), or were unrelated (SHELL -mug). In match trials, the SLI group showed a different pattern of N100 responses to auditory stimuli compared to the TD group, indicative of early auditory processing differences in SLI. However, the phonological mapping negativity (PMN) response to mismatching items was comparable across groups, suggesting that just like TD children, children with SLI are capable of establishing phonological expectations and detecting violations of these expectations in an online fashion. Perhaps most importantly, we observed a lack of attenuation of the N400 for rhyming words in the SLI group, which suggests that either these children were not as sensitive to rhyme similarity as their typically developing peers, or did not suppress lexical alternatives to the same extent. These findings help shed light on the underlying deficits responsible for SLI.