Behavioral and Neurophysiological Correlates of Sequential Learning are Associated with Language Development in Children

Joanne DeocampoGeorgia State University, Atlanta, Georgia, United States
Christopher ConwayGeorgia State University, Atlanta, GA, United States
Leyla EghbalzadGeorgia State University, Atlanta, Georgia, United States
Jerome DaltrozzoGeorgia State University, Atlanta, Georgia, United States

Abstract

Sequential learning (SL) is believed to be an essential component of language development. Despite support from behavioral studies, neural evidence of this relationship, especially in children, is scarce. The current study measured 7-12-year-olds’ ERPs to a visual SL task involving incidental learning of probabilistic relationships between predictors and targets presented within a serial input stream. Various aspects of language and cognitive development were assessed with standardized tests. Results on the SL task showed that children demonstrated SL as determined by differences in ERP amplitudes and response times for predictor conditions that varied with the probability of predicting the target. Crucially, the amplitude of ERP difference waveforms was positively correlated with language ability and cognitive control. These findings validate the use of a probabilistic visual predictor-target task to investigate SL in children and, most importantly, provide neural evidence of a close relationship between SL, language development and cognitive control.

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