Reduced sensory oscillatory activity during rapid auditory processing as a correlate of language-learning impairment

Sabine Heim, Jennifer Thomas Friedman, Andreas Keil, April A. Benasich

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


Successful language acquisition has been hypothesized to involve the ability to integrate rapidly presented, brief acoustic cues in sensory cortex. A body of work has suggested that this ability is compromised in language-learning impairment (LLI). The present research aimed to examine sensory integration during rapid auditory processing by means of electrophysiological measures of oscillatory brain activity using data from a larger longitudinal study. Twenty-nine children with LLI and control participants with typical language development (n = 18) listened to tone doublets presented at a temporal interval that is essential for accurate speech processing (70-ms interstimulus interval). The children performed a deviant (pitch change of second tone) detection task, or listened passively. The electroencephalogram was recorded from 64 electrodes. Data were source-projected to the auditory cortices and submitted to wavelet analysis, resulting in time-frequency representations of electrocortical activity. Results show significantly reduced amplitude and phase-locking of early (45-75 ms) oscillations in the gamma-band range (29-52 Hz), specifically in the LLI group, for the second stimulus of the tone doublet. This suggests altered temporal organization of sensory oscillatory activity in LLI when processing rapid sequences.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)538-555
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Neurolinguistics
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 2011

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


  • Auditory rate processing
  • Dyslexia
  • Electroencephalography
  • Gamma-band activity
  • Specific language impairment


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