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Auditory sensory memory and language abilities in former late talkers: A mismatch negativity study


  • We thank Monika Hage and Elisabeth Greiner for their assistance in collecting the EEG data. We are also particularly grateful to all the children and their parents for participating in this study.

Address reprint requests to: Nicola Grossheinrich, Ph.D., Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Psychosomatic and Psychotherapy, Ludwig-Maximilian University Munich, Waltherstrasse 23, D-80336 Munich, Germany. E-mail:


The present study investigated whether (a) a reduced duration of auditory sensory memory is found in late talking children and (b) whether deficits of sensory memory are linked to persistent difficulties in language acquisition. Former late talkers and children without delayed language development were examined at the age of 4 years and 7 months using mismatch negativity (MMN) with interstimulus intervals (ISIs) of 500 ms and 2000 ms. Additionally, short-term memory, language skills, and nonverbal intelligence were assessed. MMN mean amplitude was reduced for the ISI of 2000 ms in former late talking children both with and without persistent language deficits. In summary, our findings suggest that late talkers are characterized by a reduced duration of auditory sensory memory. However, deficits in auditory sensory memory are not sufficient for persistent language difficulties and may be compensated for by some children.