A person’s genetic makeup has been determined to be a factor in language delay. Specific genetic aberrations called chromosome deletions (in which genetic material is missing) have been identified in children who are suffering with autism spectrum disorders, language impairments as well as other types of developmental delays.
A research team analyzed 115 children using magnetoencephalography (MEG), a machine employed to detect magnetic fields in the brain. The children listened to a set of different tones, and the MEG machine analyzed the changes in the magnetic fields within the brain, specifically measuring a known auditory delay.
Children who had a specific chromosome deletion, a mutation that is found at a specific site in the genes, were found to have a significant response delay to sound, which researchers reported as being “stunningly high” when compared to the response in healthy children. The delay explains impairments in processing sound that are traced back to the genetic makeup of the child.
The biological reasons behind chromosome deletion are still a mystery. The researchers are advancing their project in a small study in which children with an Autism Spectrum Disorder who have the chromosome deletion with the sound processing delay to determine whether a drug that increases the transmission of signals across nerve cells could reduce the auditory delay, and lead to an effective treatment.