LCS, City University, Northampton Square, London EC1V 0HB, UK.
Landau-Kleffner syndrome (LKS) is an acquired aphasia which begins in childhood and is thought to arise from an epileptic disorder within the auditory speech cortex. Although the epilepsy usually subsides at puberty, a severe communication impairment often persists. Here we report on a detailed study of a 26-year old, left-handed male, with onset of LKS at age 5 years, who is aphasic for English but who learned British Sign Language (BSL) at age 13. We have investigated his skills in different language modalities, recorded EEGs during wakefulness, sleep, and under conditions of auditory stimulation, measured brain stem auditory-evoked potentials (BAEP), and performed functional MRI (fMRI) during a range of linguistic tasks. Our investigation demonstrated severe restrictions in comprehension and production of spoken English as well as lip-reading, while reading was comparatively less impaired. BSL was by far the most efficient mode of communication. All EEG recordings were normal, while BAEP showed minor abnormalities. fMRI revealed: 1) powerful and extensive bilateral (R > L) activation of auditory cortices in response to heard speech, much stronger than when listening to music; 2) very little response to silent lip-reading; 3) strong activation in the temporo-parieto-occipital association cortex, exclusively in the right hemisphere (RH), when viewing BSL signs. Analysis of these findings provides novel insights into the disturbance of the auditory speech cortex which underlies LKS and its diagnostic evaluation by fMRI, and underpins a strategy of restoring communication abilities in LKS through a natural sign language of the deaf (with Video)