Reading in Dyslexia across Literacy Development: A Longitudinal Study of Effective Connectivity
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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Dyslexia is a literacy disorder affecting the efficient acquisition of reading and writing skills. The disorder is neurobiological in origin. Due to its developmental nature, longitudinal studies of dyslexia are of essence. They are, however, relatively scarce. The present study took a longitudinal approach to cortical connectivity of brain imaging data in reading tasks in children with dyslexia and children with typical reading development. The participants were followed with repeated measurements through Pre-literacy (6 years old), Emergent Literacy (8 years old) and Literacy (12 years old) stages, using Dynamic Causal Modelling (DCM) when analysing functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) data. Even though there are a few longitudinal studies on effective connectivity in typical reading, to our knowledge, no studies have previously investigated these issues in relation to dyslexia. We set up a model of a brain reading network involving five cortical regions (inferior frontal gyrus, precentral gyrus, superior temporal gyrus, inferior parietal lobule, and occipito-temporal cortex). Using DCM, connectivity measures were calculated for each connection in the model. These measures were further analysed using factorial ANOVA. The results showed that the difference between groups centred on connections going to and from the inferior frontal gyrus (two connections) and the occipito-temporal cortex (three connections). For all five connections, the typical group showed stable or decreasing connectivity measures. The dyslexia group, on the other hand, showed a marked up-regulation (occipito-temporal connections) or down-regulation (inferior frontal gyrus connections) from 6 years to 8 years, followed by normalization from 8 years to 12 years. We interpret this as a delay in the dyslexia group in developing into the Pre-literacy and Emergent literacy stages. This delay could possibly be detrimental to literacy development. By age 12, there was no statistically significant difference in connectivity between the groups, but differences in literacy skills were still present, and were in fact larger than when measured at younger ages.