Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Executive function profiles in children with and without Specific Language Impairment

Marton, K., Campanelli, L., Scheuer, J., Yoon, J., & Eichorn, N. (2012). Executive function profiles in children with and without Specific Language Impairment. Journal of Applied Psycholinguistics 12(3), 57–73.

Children with an unexpected delay in developing language known as specific language impairment (SLI) have been found to be less accurate on slower in performing a variety of cognitively demanding tasks. This paper investigates the hypothesis that these impairments result from deficits in executive functions, particularly working memory, inhibition, and sustained attention. Inhibition refers to the ability to ignore distracting information (“resistance to interference”), and to prevent previous tasks or routines from interfering with performance on new tasks (“inhibition of prepotent response”).

In this study, children with SLI and groups matched on age and language completed tests of visuospatial short term memory, resistance to interference, inhibition of prepotent response, and sustained attention. The SLI group performed more poorly than age-matched peers on the visuospatial short term memory and resistance to interference. Findings for the sustained attention task were mixed with no differences in the ability of the SLI group to identify correct sequences, but significantly poorer ability to reject incorrect sequences. No group differences were found in the task measuring inhibition of prepotent response.

These researchers provide a theoretically motivated evaluation of executive functions in SLI. One challenge in comparing the results to other studies with the same purpose is that these studies tend to adopt a variety of theoretical perspective and tasks. Further research is needed to examine the role of linguistic and cognitive factors across participant groups and tasks.

Blogger: Laura Pauls is a doctoral student in the LWM lab, and has completed her MClSc in speech language pathology.