Refereed review article in scientific journal (A2)

A systematic review of MRI studies of language development from birth to 2 years of age

List of Authors: Silver Eero, Korja Riikka, Mainela-Arnold Elina, Pulli Elmo P, Saukko Ekaterina, Nolvi Saara, Kataja Eeva-Leena, Karlsson Linnea, Karlsson Hasse, Tuulari Jetro J

Publisher: Wiley

Publication year: 2021

Journal: Developmental Neurobiology


Journal acronym: DEV NEUROBIOL

Volume number: 81

Issue number: 1

Start page: 63

End page: 75

Number of pages: 13

ISSN: 1932-8451

eISSN: 1932-846X



Neurocognitive functions supporting language development start to develop well before first words are spoken during the first years of life. This process coincides with the initial growth spurt of the brain. While the core components of the language network are well characterized in adults and children, the initial neural correlates of language skills are still relatively unknown. We reviewed 10 studies identified via a systematic search that combined magnetic resonance imaging and language-related measures in healthy infants from birth to 2 years of age. We aimed to describe the current knowledge as well as point out viable future directions for similar studies. Expectedly, the implicated cerebral areas included many established components of the language networks, including frontal and temporal regions. A volumetric leftward asymmetry of the brain was suggested as a determinant of language skills, yet with marked interindividual variation. Overall, temporal and frontal brain volumes associated positively with language skills. Positive associations were described between the maturation of language related white matter tracts and language skills. The language networks showed adult-like structural similarities already in neonates, with weaker asymmetry compared to adults. In summary, we found some evidence that the language circuit described in older age groups is also associated to language skills during the first 2 years of life. However, across the reviewed studies there were no systematic neural correlates of language skills, which is partly explained by a modest number of studies, scattered representation of ages in measurements and the variance in the used methods.

Last updated on 2022-28-01 at 15:08