Posterior Brain Differences in Children with Dyslexia

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

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I realized after the last post that we haven’t actually spent much time discussing brain differences between dyslexic and nonimpaired readers. So today, I’m covering an earlier experiment by the Shaywitz’s.

In a 2002 paper, Shaywitz and colleagues reported an experiment with 144 children aged 7-17, half dyslexic and half nonimpaired. The children performed several tasks in the scanner, but the paper focuses on two: nonword rhyme (NWR) (Does [PEAT] rhyme with [LEAT]?) and semantic categorization (CAT)(Are [CORN] and [RICE] in the same category?). A line match task was used as a baseline.

During fMRI, the nonimpaired readers showed more activation than dyslexic readers in a large number of left and right hemisphere brain regions.*

The authors also looked at brain regions where reading skill correlated with activation. The left occipitotemporal (OT) region correlated with skill in both tasks, while bilateral parietotemporal regions showed a correlation with skill in the categorization task only.

This isn’t the first time activation in the OT has been linked to reading skill. Specht 2009 found that OT activation during a categorization task correlates with reading score even before formal reading instruction. Shaywitz 2004 found activation increases in the left OT region a year after completion of a phonological intervention. Also, this paper reported negative correlation between reading skill and activation in right OT gyrus during a categorization task, a correlation that was also reported in Turkeltaub 2003**.

Finally, the authors looked at brain regions where activation correlates with age and found striking differences between dyslexic and nonimpaired readers. Dyslexic readers had many regions that increased in activation with age***. In normal readers, there were few correlations with increasing age, and age correlated negatively with superior frontal and middle frontal regions. One possible explanation is that dyslexics learn to compensate with other brain regions as they grow older. The normal readers, on the other hand, get more efficient in their reading.****

The age result also highlights the variability in the sample. Children with dyslexia change greatly in brain activation as they grow older. You can imagine the variability that this would produce in an random experimental sample of 15 kids. I wonder if there’s been much work on relative variability in dyslexic children vs. nonimpaired children.

*NWR in left hemisphere sites (inferior frontal gyrus, superior temporal sulcus, superior temporal gyrus, middle temporal gyrus, middle occipital gyrus) and right hemisphere (Inferior frontal, superior temporal sulcus, middle temporal gyrus, medial orbital.) CAT in left (angular gyrus, middle temporal gyrus, middle occipital) and in right (middle temporal gyrus, middle occipital)

**Turkeltaub didn’t find a positive correlation in left OT, and also used a lower level task (tall letter detection.

*** IN NWR in DYS, increased age correlated with activation in bilateral IFG, basal ganglia, posterior cingulate, cuneus, middle occipital gyri and left STG.

****Correlations with age in dyslexics and normal readers are also explored in Shaywitz 2007. In that paper, they do report regions in nonimpaired readers that increase activation with age. It might be the same dataset, but I’m not sure.

Shaywitz, B. (2002). Disruption of posterior brain systems for reading in children with developmental dyslexia Biological Psychiatry, 52 (2), 101-110 DOI: 10.1016/S0006-3223(02)01365-3


Anonymous,  April 21, 2010 at 4:25 PM  

Livia, interesting stuff.

My eldest is dyslexic--majorly--and I always find it fascinating to read research about how he is hardwired compared to how the rest of the world is.

I have watched him perform categorization tests and find his answers odd, intriguing and a bit frightening. He thinks so very differently than I do and sees the world through very different eyes.

It really makes you appreciate the brain's capacity to function and in any environment.

Thanks again.

Dyslexia Diagnosing April 23, 2010 at 12:03 AM  

They see the world though different eyes and interpret it differently from the majority. Maybe they're right, maybe dyslexia is evolution in action?


Livia Blackburne April 23, 2010 at 4:37 AM  

Dyslexia- There's no mystery to evolution. If a trait makes you more likely to survive, attract mates, and have offspring, then the trait will be selected for.

Bournemouth July 23, 2010 at 1:12 AM  

Far too complex for me but it's good to see investigative work is continuing.

Personal trainer in London June 24, 2013 at 3:38 AM  

I always enjoy your posts as they are informative and useful at the same time!

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