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Grammar predicts procedural learning and consolidation deficits in children with Specific Language Impairment
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Medicine and Pharmacy, Faculty of Medicine, Department of Neuroscience, Logopedi.
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2011 (English)In: Journal of Research in Developmental Disabilities, ISSN 0891-4222, E-ISSN 1873-3379, Vol. 32, no 6, 2362-2375 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

The Procedural Deficit Hypothesis (PDH) posits that Specific Language Impairment (SLI) can be largely explained by abnormalities of brain structures that subserve procedural memory. The PDH predicts impairments of procedural memory itself, and that such impairments underlie the grammatical deficits observed in the disorder. Previous studies have indeed reported procedural learning impairments in SLI, and have found that these are associated with grammatical difficulties. The present study extends this research by examining consolidation and longer-term procedural sequence learning in children with SLI. The Alternating Serial Reaction Time (ASRT) task was given to children with SLI and typically developing (TD) children in an initial learning session and an average of three days later to test for consolidation and longer-term learning. Although both groups showed evidence of initial sequence learning, only the TO children showed clear signs of consolidation, even though the two groups did not differ in longer-term learning. When the children were re-categorized on the basis of grammar deficits rather than broader language deficits, a clearer pattern emerged. Whereas both the grammar impaired and normal grammar groups showed evidence of initial sequence learning, only those with normal grammar showed consolidation and longer-term learning. Indeed, the grammar-impaired group appeared to lose any sequence knowledge gained during the initial testing session. These findings held even when controlling for vocabulary or a broad non-grammatical language measure, neither of which were associated with procedural memory. When grammar was examined as a continuous variable over all children, the same relationships between procedural memory and grammar, but not vocabulary or the broader language measure, were observed. Overall, the findings support and further specify the PDH. They suggest that consolidation and longer-term procedural learning are impaired in SLI, but that these impairments are specifically tied to the grammatical deficits in the disorder. The possibility that consolidation and longer-term learning are problematic in the disorder suggests a locus of potential study for therapeutic approaches. In sum, this study clarifies our understanding of the underlying deficits in SLI, and suggests avenues for further research.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2011. Vol. 32, no 6, 2362-2375 p.
Keyword [en]
Specific Language Impairment, Procedural memory, Consolidation, Grammar, The Procedural Deficit Hypothesis (PDH)
National Category
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-161923DOI: 10.1016/j.ridd.2011.07.026ISI: 000296304000039OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-161923DiVA: diva2:458553
Available from: 2011-11-23 Created: 2011-11-21 Last updated: 2014-01-07Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Procedural and Declarative Memory in Children with Developmental Disorders of Language and Literacy
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Procedural and Declarative Memory in Children with Developmental Disorders of Language and Literacy
2013 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

The procedural deficit hypothesis (PDH) posits that a range of language, cognitive and motor impairments associated with specific language impairment (SLI) and developmental dyslexia (DD) may be explained by an underlying domain-general dysfunction of the procedural memory system. In contrast, declarative memory is hypothesized to remain intact and to play a compensatory role in the two disorders. The studies in the present thesis were designed to test this hypothesis.

Study I examined non-language procedural memory, specifically implicit sequence learning, in children with SLI. It was shown that children with poor performance on tests of grammar were impaired at consolidation of procedural memory compared to children with normal grammar. These findings support the PDH and are line with previous studies suggesting a link between grammar processing and procedural memory.

In Study II, the same implicit sequence learning paradigm was used to test procedural memory in children with DD. The DD group showed a learning profile that was similar to that of children with SLI in Study I, with a significant impairment emerging late in learning, after extended practice and including an overnight interval. Further analyses suggested that the DD impairment may not be related to overnight consolidation but to the effects of further practice beyond the initial practice session. In contrast to the predictions of the PDH, the sequence learning deficit was unrelated to phonological processing skills as assessed with a nonword repetition task.

Study III examined declarative memory in DD. The performance of the DD group was found to be not only intact, but even enhanced, compared to that of the control children. The results encourage further studies on the potential of declarative memory to compensate for the reading problems in DD.

In sum, the results lend partial support for the PDH and suggest further refinements to the theory. Collectively, the studies emphasize the importance of going beyond a narrow focus on language learning and memory functions in the characterization of the two disorders. Such a broader cognitive, motor and language approach may inform the development of future clinical and pedagogical assessment and intervention practices for SLI and DD.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Uppsala: Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis, 2013. 98 p.
Digital Comprehensive Summaries of Uppsala Dissertations from the Faculty of Medicine, ISSN 1651-6206 ; 917
Specific Language Impairment, Developmental Dyslexia, Procedural memory, Declarative memory, Implicit sequence learning
National Category
Medical and Health Sciences
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-204245 (URN)978-91-554-8707-2 (ISBN)
Public defence
2013-09-13, Gustavianum, Uppsala, 13:15 (English)
Available from: 2013-08-23 Created: 2013-07-28 Last updated: 2014-01-07

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