A verbal strength in children with Tourette syndrome? Evidence from a non-word repetition task

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Abstract

Tourette syndrome (TS) is characterized by motor and vocal tics, and frontal/basal-ganglia abnormalities. Whereas cognitive strengths have been found in other neurodevelopmental disorders, less attention has been paid to strengths in TS, or to verbal strengths in any neurodevelopmental disorder. We examined whether the finding of speeded TS production of rule-governed morphological forms (e.g., “slipped”) that involve composition (Walenski, Mostofsky, & Ullman, 2007) might extend to another language domain, phonology. Thirteen children with TS and 14 typically-developing (TD) children performed a non-word repetition task: they repeated legal phonological strings (e.g.,“naichovabe”), a task that taps rule-governed (de)composition. Parallel to the morphology findings, the children with TS showed speeded production, while the two groups had similar accuracy. The results were not explained by potentially confounding factors, including IQ. Overall, the findings suggest that rule-governed grammatical composition may be speeded in TS, perhaps due to frontal/basal-ganglia abnormalities.

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