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Impact of moderate prematurity on early speech perception and language acquisition in infants, a longitudinal planned study

Poster B74 in Poster Session B, Tuesday, October 24, 3:30 - 5:15 pm CEST, Espace Vieux-Port

Giulia Danielou1,2, Estelle Hervé1,2, Anne-Sophie Dubbary1,2, Thierry Legou1,2, William Rozalen1,3, Béatrice Desnous3,4, Clément François1,2; 1LPL, CNRS, Aix-Marseille Université, UMR 7309, France, 2ILCB, Aix-Marseille University, France, 3APHM, Reference Center for Rare Epilepsies, Timone Children Hospital, France, 4INS, INSERM, France.

Each year, approximately 15 million infants are born prematurely, and in France, moderate preterm infants born between 32 and 36 weeks of amenorrhea account for 44 000 births (WHO, 2023; INSERM, 2023). Preterm birth has long-term negative effects on health, cognitive, and language development (Gervain, 2015). For instance, compared to full-term infants, moderate preterms have poorer neurodevelopmental outcomes by age two (de Jong et al., 2015) and present an impaired cortical encoding of speech sounds (Francois et al., 2021). However, while much research has been conducted on extreme preterm infants, only a few studies have focused on the consequences of moderate prematurity, the most significant part of preterm birth worldwide. Besides, prospective longitudinal assessments during the first two years of life are still rare. In this interdisciplinary study, we will longitudinally examine the impact of moderate prematurity on early speech perception and vocabulary acquisition during the first two years of life. We will use EEG recordings, behavioral and neurodevelopmental assessments performed at two days of life, 3, 6, 10, 18, and 24 months to investigate the relationship between early auditory perception and language learning abilities. The EEG recordings will include cortical and subcortical evoked potentials recorded simultaneously during a passive listening task (Bidelman, 2015). Our task will include blocks with a high stimulation rate (3.45 Hz) containing the syllable /oa/ and blocks with a low stimulation rate (1.47 Hz) containing the syllable /ba/ as the standard stimulus, as well as two deviant syllables (/da/ and /ga/). These EEG data will allow us to examine the auditory hierarchy of speech perception during early development. In addition, we will assess minimal-pair word-learning using eye-tracking measures to obtain crucial information on infants' associative learning skills. Finally, language development will be assessed using the Bayley Scale and the MacArthur-Bates Communicative Development Inventory. By combining neurophysiological measures, behavioral, and neurodevelopmental data, we will comprehensively examine the complex relationship between early speech perception and vocabulary acquisition and evaluate the impact of prematurity. We expect moderate preterm neonates to show lower amplitudes of cortical evoked potentials and longer latency compared to full-terms, and this pattern will be associated with delayed language development at age 2. Our study will have important implications for developing early interventions for moderate preterm infants by identifying early biomarkers of language delay.

Topic Areas: Speech Perception, Language Development/Acquisition

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