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Areas commonly activated in the brain during a verb generation task.  On the left is the image for children who are typically developing and on the right is the image for children with DLD.

Developmental Language Disorder

Developmental language disorder is a relatively under recognised neurodevelopment disorder that affects a child's ability to learn language for no obvious reason.  It is estimated that one in fourteen children has DLD, that is at least two in  a classroom of 30.  Children with DLD have difficulties with producing language - both the sounds of a language and its grammar can be affected - and with understanding language.  Such learning difficulties can have consequences for literacy development, self-esteem, emotional regulation, and ultimately impact academic achievement and employment.  The language learning problems cannot be explained by general cognitive impairment, physical abnormality of the speech apparatus, autistic spectrum disorder, hearing loss, or acquired brain damage.  The causes are unknown and likely result from complex interactions between genes and the environment.  There may be measurable differences in the brain that could help us understand how these causes affect brain development.  We are using brain imaging to detect such differences.

Brain structure and function in DLD

We recently completed a large brain imaging study of children with a range of language learning abilities including those with DLD.  This was called the Oxford Brain Organisation in Language Development study or OxBOLD for short.  You can read more about this study on this website

related papers

Krishnan S, Cler GJ, Smith HJ, Willis HE, Asaridou SS, Healy MP, Papp D & Watkins KE (2022). Quantitative MRI reveals differences in striatal myelin in children with DLD. eLife (in press) (preprint)
Krishnan, S., Asaridou, S.S., Cler, G.J., Smith, H.J., Willis, H., Healy, M. P., Thompson, P. A., Bishop, D.V.M., & Watkins, K.E. (2021). Functional organisation for verb generation in children with language disorders. Registered Report. NeuroImage 226:117599. doi:10.1016/j.neuroimage.2020.117599. [Awarded the 2021 BPS Developmental Section Neil O’Connor prize]