Language development progresses at a dramatic rate in preschool children. As rapid temporal processing of speech signals is important in daily colloquial environments, we performed magnetoencephalography (MEG) to investigate the linkage between speech-evoked responses during rapid-rate stimulus presentation (interstimulus interval <1s) and language performance in 2- to 5-year-old children (n=59). Our results indicated that syllables with this short stimulus interval evoked detectable P50m, but not N100m, in most participants, indicating a marked influence of longer neuronal refractory period for stimulation. The results of equivalent dipole estimation showed that the intensity of the P50m component in the left hemisphere was positively correlated with language performance (conceptual inference ability). The observed positive correlations were suggested to reflect the maturation of synaptic organisation or axonal maturation and myelination underlying the acquisition of linguistic abilities. The present study is among the first to use MEG to study brain maturation pertaining to language abilities in preschool children.
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