Prenatal Exposure to Phthalates Linked to Language Delay in Preschool Children

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Carl-Gustaf Bornehag, PhD Professor, Department of Health Sciences Karlstad University, Karlstad, Sweden Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai New York 

Prof. Bornehag

Carl-Gustaf Bornehag, PhD
Professor, Department of Health Sciences
Karlstad University, Karlstad, Sweden
Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai
New York 

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Phthalates have been known for long time as potential endocrine disrupters. Exposure for these kind of compounds during pregnancy have been associated to impacted sexual development, most often seen in boys. However, there is also findings showing that prenatal exposure for phthalates can be associated to neurodevelopment in offspring children.

This study is focusing on prenatal exposure for phthalates and language delay at 30-37 months of age and were conducted in Sweden (the SELMA study including 963 children) and the U.S. (the TIDES study including 370 children) with the same design, measurements and protocols.

In these two independent studies, prenatal exposure for two phthalates (DBP and BBzP) was associated to language delay in pre-school children. Unique things with this study is that we are measuring the exposure during early pregnancy (1st trimester), the size of the study, and that we examined it in two independent populations, one in Europe and one in the U.S. with similar results. 

MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report?

 Response: These compounds identified in this study are banned in many products, but since many of these (e.g., older vinyl flooring, electric cables, toys, etc.) have long life length, they can exposure people for several decades. From a consumers point of view it is good to try to find information on ingredients in these kind of products, but that can be difficult. 

MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work? 

Response: We need other kind of more experimental studies that can tell us the biological mechanisms behind these effects. 

Citation:

Bornehag C, Lindh C, Reichenberg A, et al. Association of Prenatal Phthalate Exposure With Language Development in Early Childhood. JAMA Pediatr. Published online October 29, 2018. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2018.3115

Oct 31, 2018 @ 6:31 pm

The information on MedicalResearch.com is provided for educational purposes only, and is in no way intended to diagnose, cure, or treat any medical or other condition. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health and ask your doctor any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. In addition to all other limitations and disclaimers in this agreement, service provider and its third party providers disclaim any liability or loss in connection with the content provided on this website.

 

Deaf Children With Cochlear Implants Learn New Words Faster

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

BruceBlaus - Own work An illustration of a cochlear implant.

An illustration of a cochlear implant: Wikipedia image

Niki Katerina Vavatzanidis MSc
Department of Neuropsychology
Max Planck Institute for Human and Cognitive Brain Science
Leipzig, Germany
Technische Universität Dresden, Germany 

 

 

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? 

Response: Cochlear implants (CIs) are a way of providing hearing to sensorineural deaf individuals. The implant works by first picking up sounds from the environment and transforming them into an electric signal. Via an array of electrodes the implant then transmits the signal directly to the auditory nerve, which then leads to auditory sensations in the brain.

In our study, we were interested to see how language acquisition is affected when language immersion occurs at an untypically late age. Children with cochlear implants that grow up in exclusively or predominantly hearing environments will have their first language encounter at the time of implantation, which nowadays is roughly between the age of one and three. Besides the later starting point in language acquisition, children with CIs are facing a compromised input quality compared to typical hearing.

We know from typically hearing children that it is around the age of 14 months that their vocabulary becomes robust enough to react to name violations. That is, when a picture is labelled incorrectly, their brain waves will display with the so-called N400 effect. In our study we were interested whether children with CIs would also show the N400 effect and if so, how many months of hearing experience are necessary. We measured the brain activity of children implanted between the age of one and four at three time points: 12, 18, and 24 months after implant activation. To our surprise, congenitally deaf children whose only language input had been via the cochlear implant already displayed the N400 effect after 12 months of language immersion, i.e. earlier than seen in typically hearing children.   Continue reading

Kids Who Have Difficulty Spelling Can Have Trouble Writing As Well

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Sonia Kandel PhD
Professor at the GIPSA-Lab
Université Grenoble Alpes 

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: How do we recall a word’s spelling from memory? How do we execute the movements to produce letters? A series of studies conducted by Professor Sonia Kandel at the GIPSA-Lab/University of Grenoble Alpes in France provide evidence indicating that writing is a linguistic process that affects the way we execute the manual movements when we write. For example, the movements involved in writing T-H-R are easier to execute in a word that is pronounced as it is spelled, (e.g. “thrill”) than in a word that is orthographically irregular (e.g. “through”). What happens with writing when spelling processes are impaired like, in dyslexia and dysgraphia?

Continue reading

Genetic Factors Link Communication Competence in Childhood With Autism and Schizophrenia

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Dr. Beate St Pourcain MSc, PhD(Cardiff) Genetic Epidemiology School of Oral and Dental Sciences MRC Integrative Epidemiology Unit University of Bristol

Dr. Beate St Pourcain

Dr. Beate St Pourcain MSc, PhD(Cardiff)
Genetic Epidemiology
School of Oral and Dental Sciences
MRC Integrative Epidemiology Unit
University of Bristol

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: People with autism and with schizophrenia both have problems interacting and communicating with other people, because they cannot easily initiate social interactions or give appropriate responses in return. On the other hand, the disorders of autism and schizophrenia develop in very different ways. The first signs of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) typically occur during infancy or early childhood, whereas the symptoms of schizophrenia usually do not appear until early adulthood. The researchers asked whether it is possible to disentangle the apparent symptom overlap in ASD and schizophrenia through genetic analyses.

As clinical diagnoses relate to the age of onset of a disorder and do not capture multiple developmental stages, the researchers used a trick. They assumed that there is a continuum between normal and abnormal behaviour and captured social communicative competence – the ability to socially engage with other people successfully – in participants of a population-based birth cohort during development.

Specifically, the researchers studied the genetic overlap between the risk of having these psychiatric disorders and these measures of social communicative competence. Investigating thousands of genetic variants with small effects across the genome, they showed that genes influencing social communication problems during childhood overlap with genes conferring risk for autism, but that this relationship wanes during adolescence. In contrast, genes influencing risk for schizophrenia were most strongly interrelated with genes affecting social competence during later adolescence, in line with the natural history of the disorder.

“The findings suggest that the risk of developing these contrasting psychiatric conditions is strongly related to distinct sets of genes, both of which influence social communication skills, but exert their maximum influence during different periods of development”, explained Beate St Pourcain, senior investigator at the Max Planck Institute and lead author of the study. This is consistent with studies showing that genetic factors underlying social communication behaviour also change to some degree during childhood and adolescence.

Continue reading

Humanoid Robot Deepens Understanding of How Toddlers Learn What Words Mean

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Dr Katie (Katherine) Twomey ESRC Future Research Leaders Fellow, Lancaster University Senior Research Associate, ESRC International Centre for Language and Communicative Development (LuCiD)

Humanoid Robot Helps Understand How Toddlers Link Words to Objects

Dr Katie (Katherine) Twomey
ESRC Future Research Leaders Fellow, Lancaster University
Senior Research Associate, ESRC International Centre for Language and Communicative Development (LuCiD)

 

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Although we know that toddlers can quickly work out what new words mean, it’s not yet clear exactly how they do it. For example, when they see a new object alongside their favorite toy truck and hear a new word “block”, we know that they will link “block” to the new object. They could do this by thinking in detail about what they already know, for example “if my toy is called “truck”, then “block” must be the name of the new object”. Equally, however, they could quickly link the new word to the new object without thinking about it in-depth.

We tested this second possibility using iCub, a humanoid robot which learns by making quick associations between what it sees and what it hears, without the ability to think in detail about what it already knows. We replicated two studies of toddlers’ early word learning with iCub and found that even though it can only learn through making simple links between words and objects, it behaved exactly as children did in the original experiments.

Continue reading

How Do Young Children Choose What Words To Learn?

Arielle Borovsky, PhD Assistant Professor Department of Psychology Florida State University Tallahassee, FL 32306 MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Arielle Borovsky, PhD
Assistant Professor
Department of Psychology
Florida State University
Tallahassee, FL 32306

Medical Research: What motivated this research?

Dr. Borovsky: Early vocabulary learning sets the stage for many other language and academic skills. It is important to understand how this process proceeds normally so that we can identify children who may be in need of other clinical language interventions as early as possible.

One of the emerging observations in early vocabulary acquisition research is that while the number of words that infants know is important, the structure of this knowledge also matters. That is, children do not learn words randomly, nor is their vocabulary a representative subset of adult vocabulary. Young children learn words that matter for communication in their daily activities, and these words tend to be related in meaning. It is highly possible that children are learning new language even when watching an Official Video on Youtube. Young children’s early semantic structure in vocabulary knowledge suggests is that it may be easier for them to learn new words that have greater connections to their existing knowledge. However, although there had been some promising observational research on this topic, this idea had not yet been experimentally tested. So that is what we decided to do.

Medical Research: What did you find?

Dr. Borovsky: We found that children were be able to understand new words more effectively when those words had more connections to their exisiting vocabularies. We found this by asking parents of 32 two-year-old children to complete a detailed survey of the words their child says. We then taught these children the same six words and identified for each individual child the three words came from categories that they knew the most about, and the three that came from the child’s least well-known categories. In this way, we could control for the child’s overall vocabulary size, while selecting words that had relatively more or fewer connections to their own vocabulary. Afterwards, we used an eye-tracking task to test how children understood these high and low connection words. This allowed us to probe the child’s knowledge without requiring them to talk or point, they simply had to do what they like to do naturally – watch a simple video on a computer screen with pictures that corresponded to the words they learned. We found that when the new items were named in this computer game, children looked more towards the words that had more connections rather than fewer connections. This suggested that they understood these high density words more easily than the more sparsely connected words.

Continue reading

Autism and Language Impairment: Possible Common Genetic Link

Linda Brzustowicz, M.D. Professor and Chair Department of Genetics Rutgers University Piscataway, NJ 08854MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Linda Brzustowicz, M.D.
Professor and Chair
Department of Genetics
Rutgers University,Piscataway, NJ 08854


MedicalResearch.com: What are the main findings of the study?

Dr. Brzustowicz: The objective of this study was to search for locations in the human genome that impact language ability in individuals with autism as well as in their family members without autism.  To do this, we recruited families with an individual with autism and at least one other family member without autism but with a language learning impairment.  We identified two locations in the human genome that are linked to language ability in these families.  Importantly, these locations do not appear to be specific to language impairment in the individuals with autism, but are related to language ability in other family members as well.  This suggests that while individuals with autism may have new, or de novo, genetic variations that are important for risk of illness, they may also carry inherited genetic variation that influence the expression of their illness.  The effects of these inherited variants can also be seen in the language performance of family members without autism.

Continue reading