Semantic processing in children 0 to 6 years of age: an N400 analysis

ABSTRACT This study consists of a literature review about the semantic processing in children 0 to 6 years of age and an N400 data analysis. Twenty-four studies that met the eligibility criteria were found. Most studies aimed to investigate and characterize the electrophysiological patterns of younger children as compared to those found in older children and adults. A large variability of employed experimental tasks was found, showing that there are various investigation alternatives in this perspective. In general, the joint analysis of the results pointed out that despite the different objectives, types of experimental tasks and degrees of language skills (i.e., typical development or different conditions), age was a relevant factor in establishing the presence or not of the N400 effect and its lateralization. When present, the N400 effect showed that the latency and amplitude of the wave decline according to age. However, the variability of procedures can affect the degree of control and the data reliability. For further studies, the development of a standard protocol to investigate the semantic processing by means of the N400 effect data in different populations is an important step and a strong recommendation for the area.