Schaadt, G. 1, 2 , Männel, C. 1 , Pannekamp, A. 2 , Oberecker, R. 1 , van der Meer, E. 2 & Friederici, A. 1
1 Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences
2 Humboldt-University of Berlin; Department of Psychology
The Mismatch negativity (MMN) of the event-related potential is a strong tool for investigating auditory processing, especially given its re-test reliability. Since auditory processing abilities can be viewed as prerequisites for successful language development, the infant MMN might suit as an early diagnostic measure for later reading and writing abilities. The present study retrospectively investigates the MMN of school children with and without writing problems, who were previously tested at the age of five months. At both ages, children were presented with a passive oddball paradigm, investigating their ability of phoneme discrimination. As expected, for 10-year-old children with written language problems at school results reveal diminished MMN responses to deviant phonemes compared to their unimpaired peers. Importantly, for children with later problems, diminished MMN effects could already be observed at five months. These results suggest that deficient auditory processing associated with later writing problems arises during a time when infants typically develop language-specific phoneme representations. Thus, the current study is in line with the phonological deficit hypothesis, proposing that impaired auditory processing serves as one of the main causes of reading and writing problems, and is promising towards the utilization of the MMN as an early predictor for written language abilities.