The effect of prenatal androgen exposure on langauge development
The aim of my research is to investigate the influence of prenatal exposure to androgens (e.g. testosterone) on language development. Prenatal androgens have been comprehensively examined within the autism literature, and exposure to prenatal androgens has been linked with enhanced spatial ability, and more male typical play behaviours. While some research has been conducted investigating the effect of prenatal androgens on verbal ability, few have specifically looked at language development and most have used a proxy measure for androgen exposure (e.g. 2D:4D digit ratio). Using data from a prospective pregnancy-cohort study (the Raine Study), I have a unique opportunity to investigate this relationship. It is predicted that higher androgen levels will be associated with less spontaneous language in early childhood. To explore the neural mechanisms underlying this relationship, we will be using a technique called the functional Transcranial Doppler Ultrasonography (fTCD). This technique allows us to examine which hemisphere (left or right) people use when processing language. It is hypothesised that people exposed to higher concentrations of prenatal androgens will use less of their left hemisphere when processing language.
The results from this research will take us one step closer to understanding why rates of langauge development differ from child to child. In addition, it will increase our understanding of what may be underlying impairments in language development.