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The ontogeny of the cortical language network

Abstract

Language-processing functions follow heterogeneous developmental trajectories. The human embryo can already distinguish vowels in utero, but grammatical complexity is usually not fully mastered until at least 7 years of age. Examining the current literature, we propose that the ontogeny of the cortical language network can be roughly subdivided into two main developmental stages. In the first stage extending over the first 3 years of life, the infant rapidly acquires bottom-up processing capacities, which are primarily implemented bilaterally in the temporal cortices. In the second stage continuing into adolescence, top-down processes emerge gradually with the increasing functional selectivity and structural connectivity of the left inferior frontal cortex.

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Figure 1: The adult auditory language comprehension network.
Figure 2: The developmental segregation of syntax from semantics.
Figure 3: The ontogenetic emergence of complex syntax.
Figure 4: The evolving cortical circuit underlying language comprehension.

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Acknowledgements

This work was supported by a grant from the European Research Council (ERC-2010-AdG 20100407, NEUROSYNTAX) awarded to A.D.F.

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Skeide, M., Friederici, A. The ontogeny of the cortical language network. Nat Rev Neurosci 17, 323–332 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1038/nrn.2016.23

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