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© Copyright © 2020 Sanjeevan, Hammill, Brian, Crosbie, Schachar, Kelley, Liu, Nicolson, Iaboni, Day Fragiadakis, Ristic, Lerch and Anagnostou. Introduction: There is significant overlap in the type of structural language impairments exhibited by children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). This similarity suggests that the cognitive impairment(s) contributing to the structural language deficits in ASD and ADHD may be shared. Previous studies have speculated that procedural memory deficits may be the shared cognitive impairment. The procedural deficit hypothesis (PDH) argues that language deficits can be explained by differences in the neural structures underlying the procedural memory network. This hypothesis is based on the premise that the neural structures comprising the procedural network support language learning. In this study, we aimed to test the PDH in children with ASD, ADHD, and typical development (TD). Methods: One hundred and sixty-three participants (ages 10–21): 91 with ASD, 26 with ADHD, and 46 with TD, completed standardized measures of cognitive and language ability as well as structural magnetic resonance imaging. We compared the structural language abilities, the neural structures underlying the procedural memory network, and the relationship between structural language and neural structure across diagnostic groups. Results: Our analyses revealed that while the structural language abilities differed across ASD, ADHD, and TD groups, the thickness, area, and volume of the structures supporting the procedural memory network were not significantly different between diagnostic groups. Also, several neural structures were associated with structural language abilities across diagnostic groups. Only two of these structures, the inferior frontal gyrus, and the left superior parietal gyrus, are known to be linked to the procedural memory network. Conclusions: The inferior frontal gyrus and the left superior parietal gyrus, have well-established roles in language learning independent of their role as part of the procedural memory system. Other structures such as the caudate and cerebellum, with critical roles in the procedural memory network, were not associated with structural language abilities across diagnostic groups. It is unclear whether the procedural memory network plays a fundamental role in language learning in ASD, ADHD, and TD.

Original publication




Journal article


Frontiers in Human Neuroscience

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