Vocabulary growth rate from preschool to school‐age years is reflected in the connectivity of the arcuate fasciculus in 14‐year‐old children
The acquisition of language involves the functional specialization of several cortical regions. Connectivity between these brain regions may also change with the development of language. Various studies have demonstrated that the arcuate fasciculus was essential for language function. Vocabulary learning is one of the most important skills in language acquisition. In the present longitudinal study, we explored the influence of vocabulary development on the anatomical properties of the arcuate fasciculus. Seventy-nine Chinese children participated in this study. Between age 4 and age 10, they were administered the same vocabulary task repeatedly. Following a previous study, children's vocabulary developmental trajectories were clustered into three subgroups (consistently good, catch-up, consistently poor). At age 14, diffusion tensor imaging data were collected. Using ROI-based tractography, the anterior, posterior and direct segments of the bilateral arcuate fasciculus were delineated in each child's native space. Group comparisons showed a significantly reduced fractional anisotropy in the left arcuate fasciculus of children in the consistently poor group, in particular in the posterior and direct segments of the arcuate fasciculus. No group differences were observed in the right hemisphere, nor in the left anterior segment. Further regression analyses showed that the rate of vocabulary development, rather than the initial vocabulary size, was a specific predictor of the left arcuate fasciculus connectivity.