Early asymmetric inter-hemispheric transfer in the auditory network: insights from infants with corpus callosum agenesis
The left hemisphere specialization for language is a well-established asymmetry in the human brain. Structural and functional asymmetries are observed as early as the prenatal period suggesting genetically determined differences between both hemispheres. The corpus callosum is a large tract connecting mostly homologous areas; some have proposed that it might participate in an enhancement of the left-hemispheric advantage to process speech. To investigate its role in early development, we compared 13 3–4-month-old infants with an agenesis of the corpus callosum (“AgCC”) with 18 typical infants using high-density electroencephalography in an auditory task. We recorded event-related potentials for speech stimuli (syllables and babbling noise), presented binaurally (same syllable in both ears), monaurally (babbling noise in one ear) and dichotically (syllable in one ear and babbling noise in the other ear). In response to these stimuli, both groups developed an anterior positivity synchronous with a posterior negativity, yet the topography significantly differed between groups likely due to the atypical gyration of the medial surface in AgCC. In particular, the anterior positivity was lateral in AgCC infants while it covered the midline in typical infants. We then measured the latencies of the main auditory response (P2 at this age) for the different conditions on the symmetrical left and right clusters. The main difference between groups was a ~ 60 ms delay in typical infants relative to AgCC, for the ipsilateral response (i.e. left hemisphere) to babbling noise presented in the left ear, whereas no difference was observed in the case of right-ear stimulation. We suggest that our results highlight an asymmetrical callosal connectivity favoring the right-to-left hemisphere direction in typical infants. This asymmetry, similar to recent descriptions in adults, might contribute to an enhancement of left lateralization for language processing beyond the initial cortical left-hemisphere advantage.
KeywordsCorpus callosum Corpus callosum agenesis Brain development Electroencephalography EEG Auditory network Asymmetry Inter-hemispheric transfer Language Brain specialization
The authors would like to thank all the infants and their parents who participated in this study. We are also grateful to Claire Kabdebon for her help in EEG analyses and Eric Moulton for proofreading the text.
This research was supported by grants from the Fondation de France (to J. D and G. DL), NRJ-Institut de France (to G. D-L) and European Research Council (BabyLearn grant to G. D-L).
Compliance with ethical standards
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.
Written informed consent was obtained from all infants’ parents included in the study.
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