Phonological processing, the ability to recognize and manipulate the sounds of one's native language, is an essential linguistic skill. Deficits in this skill may lead to decreased social, educational, and financial success (Kraus & White-Schwoch, 2019). Additionally, phonological disorders have been shown to be highly variable and individualized (Bellon-Harn & Cradeur-Pampolina, 2016) and therefore difficult to treat effectively. A better understanding of the neural underpinnings of phonological processing, including the underlying skill of phonemic discrimination, could lead to the development of more individualized and effective intervention. Several studies, some using quantitative electroencephalography (qEEG) and others using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), have been conducted to investigate these neural underpinnings. When considering the relative strengths and weaknesses of qEEG and fMRI, the scientific community has traditionally believed qEEG to be excellent at determining when brain activity occurs (temporal resolution), but to have limited abilities in determining where it occurs (spatial resolution). On the other hand, the reverse is believed to be true for fMRI. However, the spatial resolution of qEEG has improved over recent decades and some studies have reached levels of specificity comparable to fMRI. This thesis provides an abbreviated meta-analysis determining the accuracy and consistency of source references, or areas where brain activation is determined to originate from, in qEEG studies evaluating phonemic discrimination. Nineteen experiments were analyzed using the Comprehensive Meta-Analysis software. A study's event rate was defined as the number of times an anatomical area was coded as a source reference, divided by the participants in the study. Results show that each of these experiments had relatively low event rates, culminating into a summary event rate of 0.240. This indicates that qEEG does not provide source references that are as accurate or consistent as fMRI. This meta-analysis concludes that although there is research suggesting qEEG may have developed to be comparable to fMRI in spatial resolution, this is not supported in the analysis of qEEG studies focused on phonemic discrimination.



College and Department

David O. McKay School of Education; Communication Disorders



Date Submitted


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spatial resolution, electroencephalography, functional magnetic resonance imaging, phoneme discrimination task



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