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Picture naming in typically developing and language impaired children: The role of sustained attention

Jongman, S. R., Roelofs, A., Scheper, A., & Meyer, A. S. (2016). Picture naming in typically developing and language impaired children: The role of sustained attention. International Journal of Language & Communication Disorders. Advance online publication. doi:10.1111/1460-6984.12275.
Children with specific language impairment (SLI) have problems not only with language performance but also with sustained attention, which is the ability to maintain alertness over an extended period of time. Although there is consensus that this ability is impaired with respect to processing stimuli in the auditory perceptual modality, conflicting evidence exists concerning the visual modality. Aims To address the outstanding issue whether the impairment in sustained attention is limited to the auditory domain, or if it is domain-general. Furthermore, to test whether children's sustained attention ability relates to their word-production skills. Methods & Procedures Groups of 7–9 year olds with SLI (N = 28) and typically developing (TD) children (N = 22) performed a picture-naming task and two sustained attention tasks, namely auditory and visual continuous performance tasks (CPTs). Outcomes & Results Children with SLI performed worse than TD children on picture naming and on both the auditory and visual CPTs. Moreover, performance on both the CPTs correlated with picture-naming latencies across developmental groups. Conclusions & Implications These results provide evidence for a deficit in both auditory and visual sustained attention in children with SLI. Moreover, the study indicates there is a relationship between domain-general sustained attention and picture-naming performance in both TD and language-impaired children. Future studies should establish whether this relationship is causal. If attention influences language, training of sustained attention may improve language production in children from both developmental groups.
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The Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics is an institute of the German Max Planck Society. Our mission is to undertake basic research into the psychological,social and biological foundations of language. The goal is to understand how our minds and brains process language, how language interacts with other aspects of mind, and how we can learn languages of quite different types.

The institute is situated on the campus of the Radboud University. We participate in the Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour, and have particularly close ties to that institute's Centre for Cognitive Neuroimaging. We also participate in the Centre for Language Studies. A joint graduate school, the IMPRS in Language Sciences, links the Donders Institute, the CLS and the MPI.


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