Object. The authors examined the localization of language sites and the frequency of naming errors at these sites in a population of children undergoing electrical stimulation mapping during surgeries in which epileptic foci and dominant hemisphere neoplasms were resected. The frequency with which essential language sites were found (that is, “the frequency of language sites”) in children was compared with that of a population of adults who had undergone this procedure, to assess the relationship of age to the distribution of essential areas for language.
Methods. The results of electrical stimulation mapping to determine sites of naming and speech arrest in 26 children ranging in ages from 4 to 16 years are presented in this report. Mapping was performed in the intraoperative setting in eight patients and in the extraoperative setting, by stimulation across a subdural grid, in 18 patients. The frequency and distribution of essential language areas were analyzed in populations of different ages and according to the method used to obtain the map.
Considerable variability was found in the localization of language sites. When the language site distribution in pediatric patients was compared with the language site distribution found previously in a population of patients older than 16 years of age, a relative paucity of language sites was found in all perisylvian cortices in the younger age group. This relationship was also found within the group of patients 16 years of age and younger, when segregated into two groups: those patients 8 years of age or younger, and those patients between 9 and 16 years of age. These findings are relevant to theories of the intrahemispheric organization of the cortex devoted to language function.
Conclusions. The differences found between groups of younger and older patients in the frequencies of sites where stimulation produces naming errors was identified suggests the possibility that, with advancing age, maturational processes contribute new foci of cortex essential for language.