The golden mean: A systems biology approach to developmental language disorders



Current typologies of developmental language disorders are mostly based on symptomatic criteria. Nonetheless, they often fail to categorize and characterize patients unambiguously, essentially because of the widespread problems of comorbidity and heterogeneity. Likewise, they usually fail to incorporate etiological factors in a precise way. These shortcomings are expected to impact negatively on therapies and the recovery of patient’s abilities. This paper advocates a systems biology approach to developmental language disorders, aimed to disentangle how the myriad of biological factors involved (at the bottom) interact complexly to regulate language development and processing (at the surface). In particular, it advocates a classification of disorders based on intermediate-level components, like brain oscillations. This fresh approach to the etiopathogenesis of developmental language disorders, which is more biologically motivated and more theoretically grounded, should allow identify robust endophenotypes of these conditions, that can be used as reliable hallmarks for an earlier and more accurate diagnosis.