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1.  Lateralized frontal activity for Japanese phonological processing during child development 
Phonological awareness is essential for reading, and is common to all language systems, including alphabetic languages and Japanese. This cognitive factor develops during childhood, and is thought to be associated with shifts in brain activity. However, the nature of this neurobiological developmental shift is unclear for speakers of Japanese, which is not an alphabetical language. The present study aimed to reveal a shift in brain functions for processing phonological information in native-born Japanese children. We conducted a phonological awareness task and examined hemodynamic activity in 103 children aged 7–12 years. While younger children made mistakes and needed more time to sort phonological information in reverse order, older children completed the task quickly and accurately. Additionally, younger children exhibited increased activity in the bilateral dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC), which may be evidence of immature phonological processing skills. Older children exhibited dominant activity in the left compared with the right DLPFC, suggesting that they had already acquired phonological processing skills. We also found significant effects of age and lateralized activity on behavioral performance. During earlier stages of development, the degree of left lateralization appears to have a smaller effect on behavioral performance. Conversely, in later stages of development, the degree of left lateralization appears to have a stronger influence on behavioral performance. These initial findings regarding a neurobiological developmental shift in Japanese speakers suggest that common brain regions play a critical role in the development of phonological processing skills among different languages systems, such as Japanese and alphabetical languages.
PMCID: PMC4505106
phonological awareness; development; dorsolateral prefrontal cortex; near-infrared spectroscopy; Japanese language
2.  Prevalence of birth defects and risk-factor analysis from a population-based survey in Inner Mongolia, China 
BMC Pediatrics  2012;12:125.
Birth Defects are a series of diseases that seriously affect children's health. Birth defects are generally caused by several interrelated factors. The aims of the article is to estimate the prevalence rate and types of birth defects in Inner Mongolia, China, to compare socio-demographic characteristics among the children with birth defects and to analyze the association between risk factors and birth defects.
Data used in this study were obtained through baseline survey of Inner Mongolia Birth Defects Program, a population-based survey conducted from 2005 to 2008. The survey used cluster sampling method in all 12 administrative districts of Inner Mongolia. Sampling size is calculated according to local population size at a certain percentage. All live births, stillbirths and abortions born from October 2005 to September 2008, whose families lived in Inner Mongolia at least one year, were included. The cases of birth defects were diagnosed by the clinical doctors according to their experiences with further laboratory tests if needed. The inclusion criteria of the cases that had already dead were decided according to death records available at local cites. We calculated prevalence rate and 95% confidence intervals of different groups. Outcome variable was the occurrence of birth defects and associations between risk factors and birth defects were analyzed by using Poisson regression analysis.
976 children with birth defects were diagnosed. The prevalence rate of birth defects was 156.1 per 10000 births (95%CI: 146.3-165.8). The prevalence rate of neural tube defect (20.1 per 10000 births) including anencephaly(6.9 per 10000), spina bifida (10.6 per 10000), and encephalocele (2.7 per 10000) was the highest, followed by congenital heart disease (17.1 per 10000). The relative risk (RR) for maternal age less than 25 was 2.22 (95%CI: 2.05, 2.41). The RR of the ethnic Mongols was lower than Han Chinese (RR: 0.84; 95%CI: 0.80-0.89). The RR of the third and second pregnancy was significantly higher than the first pregnancy while a slight difference between the second and the first pregnancy was also found. Alcohol drinking of mothers, familial inheritance and living area were also found to be related to the occurrence of the birth defects.
Relatively higher birth defect rates were found in Inner Mongolia. This study found that maternal age less than 25, alcohol drinking, familiar inheritance, lower education level of mothers, times of pregnancies and living in rural areas may increase the risk of birth defects. Ethnic Mongols were less likely to have birth defects than Han Chinese.
PMCID: PMC3473296  PMID: 22900612
Birth defects; Prevalence rate; Relative risk; Risk factors

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