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Poster E11, Friday, November 10, 10:00 – 11:15 am, Harborview and Loch Raven Ballrooms

Orthographic processing and print tuning are atypical in adults with a history of institutionalization: an ERP study

Irina Ovchinnikova1, Tatiana Logvinenko1, Marina Zhukova1, Sergey Kornilov1,2,3,4, Elena Grigorenko1,2,3,4,5;1Saint-Petersburg State University, Saint-Petersburg, Russia, 2University of Houston, Houston, TX, USA, 3Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, TX, USA, 4Haskins Laboratories, New Haven, CT, USA, 5Yale University, New Haven, CT, USA

Suboptimal early caregiving environments are associated with negative developmental outcomes. Children left without parental care and placed in institutional settings (baby homes) represent a particularly vulnerable population. Although general cognitive deficits are well documented in this population (van Ijzendoorn et al., 2011), less is known about their language and literacy development (Eigsti et al., 2011; Helder et al., 2014). Moreover, there is currently a dearth of research on the long-term effects of institutionalization on cognitive and language development, as well as literacy. Motivated by these considerations and recent studies pointing to the pivotal role of input in shaping the developmental trajectories for a host of language- and reading-related traits, this study investigated, for the first time, neural indices of orthographic processing in a sample of adolescents and young adults with and without history of early institutionalization. A total of 58 Russian-speaking individuals in the age range from 16 to 37 years (M = 22.16, SD = 5.86; 36 were men) participated in the study – 27 individuals raised in institutional settings (IC) and 31 individuals raised in biological families (BF). The groups did not differ on age, sex, and SES. The EEG data were collected as the participants were viewing orthographic strings and performing a lexical decision task. The findings reported here are based on the analysis of two experimental conditions: 1) real high-frequency CCVCC Russian nouns (RW) and 2) strings of false-font symbols (FF) of the same length and structure. Each condition included 40 trials. The EEG signal was recorded using the actiCHamp EEG amplifier with 64 active Ag/AgCl electrodes placed in a 10-20 montage cap. EOG was recorded using a bipolar montage. The signal was re-referenced online to common average, and standard pre-processing techniques were used. Data were averaged for correct trials only separately for the two conditions. Statistical analyses revealed that the amplitude of the left-lateralized parietal N170 component was more negative for RW compared to FF in both groups (p’s < .05) in the 100-300ms after the visual presentation of the target – an effect consistent with prior literature. Crucially, the size of the N170 condition effect (FF – RW; indexing coarse print tuning) was significantly smaller in the IC group compared to the BF group (p < .05) in the 250-300ms time window. Importantly, the amplitude of the difference waveform in the left but not in the right parietal electrode cluster correlated significantly with participant’s behavioral performance on a spelling task (Spearman’s = .31 and = .23, p = .02 and .09, respectively). Our study found atypical patterns of brain activity in response to orthographic strings in young Russian-speaking adults with a history of institutionalization, potentially indexing reduced neural specialization (e.g., coarse print tuning) and lateralization of print processing. The results suggest that literacy development is affected by suboptimal early care environments, and that these effects have a neural basis detectable even in young adulthood. This research was supported by the Government of the Russian Federation (grant No 14.Z50.31.0027; E.L.G., Principal Investigator).

Topic Area: Perception: Orthographic and Other Visual Processes

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