Development of oscillatory synchronization (MEG) predicts language abilities in children

Synchronization of oscillations among brain areas is understood to mediate network communication supporting cognition, perception, and language. How task-dependent synchronization during word production develops throughout childhood and adolescence, as well as how such network coherence is related to the development of language abilities, remains poorly understood. To address this, we recorded magnetoencephalography while 73 participants aged 4–18 years performed a verb generation task. Atlas-guided source reconstruction was performed, and phase synchronization among regions was calculated. Task-dependent increases in synchronization were observed in the theta, alpha, and beta frequency ranges, and network synchronization differences were observed between age groups. Task-dependent synchronization was strongest in the theta band, as were differences between age groups. Network topologies were calculated for brain regions associated with verb generation and were significantly associated with both age and language abilities. These findings establish the maturational trajectory of network synchronization underlying expressive language abilities throughout childhood and adolescence and provide the first evidence for an association between large-scale neurophysiological network synchronization and individual differences in the development of language abilities.