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Abstract

Phonological processing was examined in school-age children who stutter (CWS) by assessing their performance and recording event-related brain potentials (ERPs) in a visual rhyming task. CWS had lower accuracy on rhyming judgments, but the cognitive processes that mediate the comparisons of the phonological representations of words, as indexed by the rhyming effect (RE) ERP, were similar for the stuttering and normally fluent groups. Thus the lower behavioral accuracy of rhyming judgments by the CWS could not be attributed to that particular stage of processing. Instead, the neural functions for processes preceding the RE, indexed by the N400 and CNV elicited by the primes and the N400 elicited by the targets, suggest atypical processing that may have resulted in less efficient, less accurate rhyming judgment for the CWS. Based on the present results, it seems likely that the neural processes related to phonological rehearsal and target word anticipation, as indexed by the CNV, are distinctive for CWS at this age. Further, it is likely that the relative contributions of the left and right hemispheres differ in CWS in the stage of processing when linguistic integration occurs, as indexed by the N400. Taken together, these results suggest that CWS may be less able to form and retain a stable neural representation of the prime onset and rime as they anticipate the target presentation, which may lead to lower rhyming judgment accuracy.