Dorsal language stream anomalies in an inherited speech disorder

Frédérique J. Liégeois, Samantha J. Turner, Angela Mayes, Alexandra F. Bonthrone, Amber Boys, Libby Smith, Bronwyn Parry-Fielder, Simone Mandelstam, Megan Spencer-Smith, Melanie Bahlo, Tom S. Scerri, Michael S. Hildebrand, Ingrid E. Scheffer, Alan Connelly, Angela T. Morgan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


Speech disorders are highly prevalent in the preschool years, but frequently resolve. The neurobiological basis of the most persistent and severe form, apraxia of speech, remains elusive. Current neuroanatomical models of speech processing in adults propose two parallel streams. The dorsal stream is involved in sound to motor speech transformations, while the ventral stream supports sound/letter to meaning. Data-driven theories on the role of these streams during atypical speech and language development are lacking. Here we provide comprehensive behavioural and neuroimaging data on a large novel family where one parent and 11 children presented with features of childhood apraxia of speech (the same speech disorder associated with FOXP2 variants). The genetic cause of the disorder in this family remains to be identified. Importantly, in this family the speech disorder is not systematically associated with language or literacy impairment. Brain MRI scanning in seven children revealed large grey matter reductions over the left temporoparietal region, but not in the basal ganglia, relative to typically-developing matched peers. In addition, we detected white matter reductions in the arcuate fasciculus (dorsal language stream) bilaterally, but not in the inferior fronto-occipital fasciculus (ventral language stream) nor in primary motor pathways. Our findings identify disruption of the dorsal language stream as a novel neural phenotype of developmental speech disorders, distinct from that reported in speech disorders associated with FOXP2 variants. Overall, our data confirm the early role of this stream in auditory-to-articulation transformations. 10.1093/brain/awz018_video1 awz018media1 6018582401001.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)966-977
Number of pages12
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2019


  • childhood apraxia of speech
  • inherited
  • MRI
  • speech
  • speech disorder

Cite this