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Title: A neuroimaging study of the neural language network in the preterm infant brain
Author: Salvan, Piergiorgio
ISNI:       0000 0004 6421 450X
Awarding Body: King's College London
Current Institution: King's College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2017
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Language is uniquely human, and represents a fundamental feature of human cognition. However, whether the brain’s language network is already present around time of normal birth, or emerges in parallel with the behavioural development of this cognitive function during childhood, remains unclear. Preterm children are at increased risk for cognitive, language, and behavioural impairment. Studying preterm born infants at the time of normal birth therefore represents an opportunity to test hypotheses regarding the ontogeny of the language brain network, and to shed new light on how premature environmental exposure may affect the emergence of neurolinguistic architecture. Non-invasive in-vivo magnetic resonance imaging represents a powerful tool with which to study quantitatively the developing human brain. Previous neuroimaging studies have shown the presence around the time of normal birth of functional neural correlates of auditory speech processing, suggesting the presence of organized brain architecture at term. Current evidence also suggests that the human brain is particularly sensitive to developmental disruption occurring during the last trimester of gestation, with premature delivery having a long lasting signature on whole-brain architecture and later neurodevelopment. This thesis aims to 1) test the hypothesis that an adult-like brain language network is already present at the time of normal birth and is linked to cognitive performance at two years; 2) assess the effect of early environmental exposure linked to the degree of prematurity at birth in the relationship between brain and behaviour. Evidence is provided for the presence at term-equivalent age of adult-like functional/structural language brain features, linked to linguistic and cognitive abilities developed in early childhood, and independent of premature environmental exposure. This is consistent with the idea that neurolinguistic development is strongly constrained by brain maturation, and depends on the interplay between an initial genetic endowment, driving brain development, and interactions in a favourable socioeconomic environment.
Supervisor: Counsell, Serena Jane ; Edwards, Anthony David Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available