Altered brain structures in the dorsal and ventral language pathways in individuals with and without developmental language disorder (DLD)


Developmental Language Disorder (DLD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by difficulty learning and using language, and this difficulty cannot be attributed to other developmental conditions. The aim of the current study was to examine structural differences in dorsal and ventral language pathways between adolescents and young adults with and without DLD (age range: 14–27 years) using anatomical magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and diffusion tensor imaging (DTI). Results showed age-related structural brain differences in both dorsal and ventral pathways in individuals with DLD. These findings provide evidence for neuroanatomical correlates of persistent language deficits in adolescents/young adults with DLD, and further suggest that this brain-language relationship in DLD is better characterized by taking account the dynamic course of the disorder along development.

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  1. 1.

    The TTG is part of both dorsal and ventral pathways. For the purpose of simplicity, we categorize it as one of the ROIs in the dorsal pathway. It is because the primary function of the TTG is speech processing (e.g., processing spectral properties of sounds), which is a major function of the dorsal pathway.

  2. 2.

    Absolute volumes were provided in order that the current findings could be compared to those that were not corrected for ICV. Our statistical analyses were limited to the relative values.


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We would like to thank the staff in the Child Language Research Center and the MACLab at the University of Iowa for their help with subject recruitment and data collection, as well as Eric Axelson in the Nopoulos Lab for his assistance in image preprocessing and processing. We also want to express our gratitude to our participants and their parents for agreeing to take part in this study.

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Correspondence to Joanna C. Lee.

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This work was supported by the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) awarded to Dr. Tomblin [Grant R21DC013733]. All authors declare that they have no conflict of interest. All procedures performed in the study involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

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Lee, J.C., Dick, A.S. & Tomblin, J.B. Altered brain structures in the dorsal and ventral language pathways in individuals with and without developmental language disorder (DLD). Brain Imaging and Behavior (2020).

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  • Developmental language disorder
  • Dorsal pathway
  • Ventral pathway
  • Structural brain imaging