Genetic variations and associated electrophysiological and behavioral traits in children with childhood apraxia of speech
Childhood Apraxia of Speech (CAS) is a severe motor speech disorder that is difficult to diagnose as there is currently no gold-standard measurement to differentiate between CAS and other speech disorders. In the present study, we investigate underlying biomarkers associated with CAS in addition to enhanced phenotyping through behavioral testing. Cortical electrophysiological measures were utilized to investigate differences in neural activation in response to native and non-native vowel contrasts between children with CAS and typically developing peers. Genetic analysis included full exome sequencing of a child with CAS and his unaffected parents in order to uncover underlying genetic variation that may be causal to the child’s severely impaired speech and language. Enhanced phenotyping was completed through extensive behavioral testing, including speech, language, reading, spelling, phonological awareness, gross/fine motor, and oral and hand motor tasks. Results from cortical electrophysiological measures are consistent with previous evidence of a heightened neural response to non-native sounds in CAS, potentially indicating over specified phonological representations in this population. Results of exome sequencing suggest multiple genetic variations contributing to the severely affected phenotype in the child and provide further evidence of heterogeneous genomic pathways associated with CAS. Finally, results of behavioral testing demonstrate significant impairments evident across tasks in CAS, suggesting underlying sequential processing deficits in multiple domains. Overall, these results have the potential to delineate functional pathways from genetic variations to the brain to observable behavioral phenotypes and motivate the development of preventative and targeted treatment approaches.