Infants’ ability to discriminate between auditory stimuli differing in fundamental frequency and presented in rapid succession (i.e. rapid auditory processing [RAP] abilities) has been shown to be anomalous in infants at familial risk for Language and Learning Impairment (LLI) and to impact later linguistic skills (e.g., Choudhury, & Benasich, 2011). This study represents the first attempt to investigate RAP in Italian infants at familial risk for LLI (FH+) for two acoustic features: fundamental frequency and sound duration, both embedded in a rapidly-presented acoustic environment. Early RAP skills of 24 FH+ Italian 6-month-olds and 32 control infants (FH−) were characterized via EEG/ERP using a double-deviant oddball paradigm. Outcome measures of expressive vocabulary were collected at 20-months-of-age via a parental questionnaire (Language Developmental Survey; Rescorla et al., 2014). Overall, the morphology of ERP responses differed for frequency vs. duration deviants. Group differences favoring FH- infants were identified: in FH+ infants, the latency of the N250 peak was delayed and the mean amplitude of the positive mismatch response was reduced, primarily for the frequency condition and within the right hemisphere. Moreover, both measures differentiating FH+ and FH- groups at 6-months-of-age were correlated with expressive vocabulary at 20 months. Overall, these results suggest that Italian infants with a first-degree relative affected by LLI show atypical auditory processing and preliminary longitudinal data suggests that RAP abilities in Italian infants predict later language skills.
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