Differential activation of the visual word form area during auditory phoneme perception in youth with dyslexia.
ABSTRACT: Developmental dyslexia is a learning disorder characterized by difficulties reading words accurately and/or fluently. Several behavioral studies have suggested the presence of anomalies at an early stage of phoneme processing, when the complex spectrotemporal patterns in the speech signal are analyzed and assigned to phonemic categories. In this study, fMRI was used to compare brain responses associated with categorical discrimination of speech syllables (P) and acoustically matched nonphonemic stimuli (N) in children and adolescents with dyslexia and in typically developing (TD) controls, aged 8-17 years. The TD group showed significantly greater activation during the P condition relative to N in an area of the left ventral occipitotemporal cortex that corresponds well with the region referred to as the "visual word form area" (VWFA). Regression analyses using reading performance as a continuous variable across the full group of participants yielded similar results. Overall, the findings are consistent with those of previous neuroimaging studies using print stimuli in individuals with dyslexia that found reduced activation in left occipitotemporal regions; however, the current study shows that these activation differences seen during reading are apparent during auditory phoneme discrimination in youth with dyslexia, suggesting that the primary deficit in at least a subset of children may lie early in the speech processing stream and that categorical perception may be an important target of early intervention in children at risk for dyslexia.
Project description:Neuroimaging studies suggest that categorical perception of speech phonemes in adults is primarily subserved by a pathway from bilateral primary auditory areas to association areas in the left middle superior temporal cortex, but the neural substrates underlying categorical speech perception in children are not yet known. Here, fMRI was used to examine the neural substrates associated with phoneme perception in 7- to 12-year-old children as well as the relationships among level of expertise in phoneme perception, the associated activation, and the development of reading and phonological processing abilities. While multiple regions in left frontal, temporal, and parietal cortex were found to be more responsive to phonemic than nonphonemic sounds, the extent of left lateralization in posterior temporal and parietal regions during phonemic relative to nonphonemic discrimination differed depending on the degree of categorical phoneme perception. In addition, an unexpected finding was that proficiency in categorical perception was strongly related to activation in the left ventral occipitotemporal cortex, an area frequently associated with orthographic processing. Furthermore, in children who showed lower proficiency in categorical perception, the level of categorical perception was positively correlated with reading ability and reading and reading-related abilities were inversely correlated with right mid-temporal activation in the phonemic relative to nonphonemic perception contrast. These results suggest that greater specialization of left hemisphere temporal and parietal regions for the categorical perception of phonemes, as well as activation of the region termed the visual word form area, may be important for the optimal developmental refinement of both phoneme perception and reading ability.
Project description:Dyslexia is associated with abnormal performance on many auditory psychophysics tasks, particularly those involving the categorization of speech sounds. However, it is debated whether those apparent auditory deficits arise from (a) reduced sensitivity to particular acoustic cues, (b) the difficulty of experimental tasks, or (c) unmodeled lapses of attention. Here we investigate the relationship between phoneme categorization and reading ability, with special attention to the nature of the cue encoding the phoneme contrast (static versus dynamic), differences in task paradigm difficulty, and methodological details of psychometric model fitting. We find a robust relationship between reading ability and categorization performance, show that task difficulty cannot fully explain that relationship, and provide evidence that the deficit is not restricted to dynamic cue contrasts, contrary to prior reports. Finally, we demonstrate that improved modeling of behavioral responses suggests that performance does differ between children with dyslexia and typical readers, but that the difference may be smaller than previously reported.
Project description:It is established that individuals with dyslexia are less consistent at auditory phoneme categorization than typical readers. One hypothesis attributes these differences in phoneme labeling to differences in auditory cue integration over time, suggesting that the performance of individuals with dyslexia would improve with longer exposure to informative phonetic cues. Here, the relationship between phoneme labeling and reading ability was investigated while manipulating the duration of steady-state auditory information available in a consonant-vowel syllable. Children with dyslexia obtained no more benefit from longer cues than did children with typical reading skills, suggesting that poor task performance is not explained by deficits in temporal integration or temporal sampling.
Project description:Dyslexia is a reading disorder with strong associations with KIAA0319 and DCDC2. Both genes play a functional role in spike time precision of neurons. Strikingly, poor readers show an imprecise encoding of fast transients of speech in the auditory brainstem. Whether dyslexia risk genes are related to the quality of sound encoding in the auditory brainstem remains to be investigated. Here, we quantified the response consistency of speech-evoked brainstem responses to the acoustically presented syllable [da] in 159 genotyped, literate and preliterate children. When controlling for age, sex, familial risk and intelligence, partial correlation analyses associated a higher dyslexia risk loading with KIAA0319 with noisier responses. In contrast, a higher risk loading with DCDC2 was associated with a trend towards more stable responses. These results suggest that unstable representation of sound, and thus, reduced neural discrimination ability of stop consonants, occurred in genotypes carrying a higher amount of KIAA0319 risk alleles. Current data provide the first evidence that the dyslexia-associated gene KIAA0319 can alter brainstem responses and impair phoneme processing in the auditory brainstem. This brain-gene relationship provides insight into the complex relationships between phenotype and genotype thereby improving the understanding of the dyslexia-inherent complex multifactorial condition.
Project description:Developmental dyslexia is frequently associated with atypical brain structure and function within regions of the left hemisphere reading network. To date, few studies have employed surface-based techniques to evaluate cortical thickness and local gyrification in dyslexia. Of the existing cortical thickness studies in children, many are limited by small sample size, variability in dyslexia identification, and the recruitment of prereaders who may or may not develop reading impairment. Further, no known study has assessed local gyrification index (LGI) in dyslexia, which may serve as a sensitive indicator of atypical neurodevelopment. In this study, children with dyslexia (n = 31) and typically decoding peers (n = 45) underwent structural magnetic resonance imaging to assess whole-brain vertex-wise cortical thickness and LGI. Children with dyslexia demonstrated reduced cortical thickness compared with controls within previously identified reading areas including bilateral occipitotemporal and occipitoparietal regions. Compared with controls, children with dyslexia also showed increased gyrification in left occipitotemporal and right superior frontal cortices. The convergence of thinner and more gyrified cortex within the left occipitotemporal region among children with dyslexia may reflect its early temporal role in processing word forms, and highlights the importance of the ventral stream for successful word reading.
Project description:Although it is well accepted that the speech motor system (SMS) is activated during speech perception, the functional role of this activation remains unclear. Here we test the hypothesis that the redundant motor activation contributes to categorical speech perception under adverse listening conditions. In this functional magnetic resonance imaging study, participants identified one of four phoneme tokens (/ba/, /ma/, /da/, or /ta/) under one of six signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) levels (-12, -9, -6, -2, 8 dB, and no noise). Univariate and multivariate pattern analyses were used to determine the role of the SMS during perception of noise-impoverished phonemes. Results revealed a negative correlation between neural activity and perceptual accuracy in the left ventral premotor cortex and Broca's area. More importantly, multivoxel patterns of activity in the left ventral premotor cortex and Broca's area exhibited effective phoneme categorization when SNR ? -6 dB. This is in sharp contrast with phoneme discriminability in bilateral auditory cortices and sensorimotor interface areas (e.g., left posterior superior temporal gyrus), which was reliable only when the noise was extremely weak (SNR > 8 dB). Our findings provide strong neuroimaging evidence for a greater robustness of the SMS than auditory regions for categorical speech perception in noise. Under adverse listening conditions, better discriminative activity in the SMS may compensate for loss of specificity in the auditory system via sensorimotor integration.
Project description:Speech is characterized by phonemes and prosody. Neurocognitive evidence supports the separate processing of each type of information. Therefore, one might suggest individual development of both pathways. In this study, we examine literacy acquisition in middle childhood. Children become aware of the phonemes in speech at that time and refine phoneme processing when they acquire an alphabetic writing system. We test whether an enhanced sensitivity to phonemes in middle childhood extends to other aspects of the speech signal, such as prosody. To investigate prosodic processing, we used stress priming. Spoken stressed and unstressed syllables (primes) preceded spoken German words with stress on the first syllable (targets). We orthogonally varied stress overlap and phoneme overlap between the primes and onsets of the targets. Lexical decisions and Event-Related Potentials (ERPs) for the targets were obtained for pre-reading preschoolers, reading pupils and adults. The behavioral and ERP results were largely comparable across all groups. The fastest responses were observed when the first syllable of the target word shared stress and phonemes with the preceding prime. ERP stress priming and ERP phoneme priming started 200 ms after the target word onset. Bilateral ERP stress priming was characterized by enhanced ERP amplitudes for stress overlap. Left-lateralized ERP phoneme priming replicates previously observed reduced ERP amplitudes for phoneme overlap. Groups differed in the strength of the behavioral phoneme priming and in the late ERP phoneme priming effect. The present results show that enhanced phonological processing in middle childhood is restricted to phonemes and does not extend to prosody. These results are indicative of two parallel processing systems for phonemes and prosody that might follow different developmental trajectories in middle childhood as a function of alphabetic literacy.
Project description:Functional magnetic resonance imaging studies have reported reduced activation in parietotemporal and occipitotemporal areas in adults and children with developmental dyslexia compared to controls during reading and reading related tasks. These patterns of regionally reduced activation have been linked to behavioral impairments of reading-related processes (e.g., phonological skills and rapid automatized naming). The observed functional and behavioral differences in individuals with developmental dyslexia have been complemented by reports of reduced gray matter in left parietotemporal, occipitotemporal areas, fusiform and lingual gyrus and the cerebellum. An important question for education is whether these neural differences are present before reading is taught. Developmental dyslexia can only be diagnosed after formal reading education starts. However, here we investigate whether the previously detected gray matter alterations in adults and children with developmental dyslexia can already be observed in a small group of pre-reading children with a family-history of developmental dyslexia compared to age and IQ-matched children without a family-history (N = 20/mean age: 5:9 years; age range 5:1-6:5 years). Voxel-based morphometry revealed significantly reduced gray matter volume indices for pre-reading children with, compared to children without, a family-history of developmental dyslexia in left occipitotemporal, bilateral parietotemporal regions, left fusiform gyrus and right lingual gyrus. Gray matter volume indices in left hemispheric occipitotemporal and parietotemporal regions of interest also correlated positively with rapid automatized naming. No differences between the two groups were observed in frontal and cerebellar regions. This discovery in a small group of children suggests that previously described functional and structural alterations in developmental dyslexia may not be due to experience-dependent brain changes but may be present at birth or develop in early childhood prior to reading onset. Further studies using larger sample sizes and longitudinal analyses are needed in order to determine whether the identified structural alterations may be utilized as structural markers for the early identification of children at risk, which may prevent the negative clinical, social and psychological outcome of developmental dyslexia.
Project description:Here we use two filtered speech tasks to investigate children's processing of slow (<4 Hz) versus faster (?33 Hz) temporal modulations in speech. We compare groups of children with either developmental dyslexia (Experiment 1) or speech and language impairments (SLIs, Experiment 2) to groups of typically-developing (TD) children age-matched to each disorder group. Ten nursery rhymes were filtered so that their modulation frequencies were either low-pass filtered (<4 Hz) or band-pass filtered (22 - 40 Hz). Recognition of the filtered nursery rhymes was tested in a picture recognition multiple choice paradigm. Children with dyslexia aged 10 years showed equivalent recognition overall to TD controls for both the low-pass and band-pass filtered stimuli, but showed significantly impaired acoustic learning during the experiment from low-pass filtered targets. Children with oral SLIs aged 9 years showed significantly poorer recognition of band pass filtered targets compared to their TD controls, and showed comparable acoustic learning effects to TD children during the experiment. The SLI samples were also divided into children with and without phonological difficulties. The children with both SLI and phonological difficulties were impaired in recognizing both kinds of filtered speech. These data are suggestive of impaired temporal sampling of the speech signal at different modulation rates by children with different kinds of developmental language disorder. Both SLI and dyslexic samples showed impaired discrimination of amplitude rise times. Implications of these findings for a temporal sampling framework for understanding developmental language disorders are discussed.
Project description:Dyslexia is characterized by difficulties in learning to read and there is some evidence that action video games (AVG), without any direct phonological or orthographic stimulation, improve reading efficiency in Italian children with dyslexia. However, the cognitive mechanism underlying this improvement and the extent to which the benefits of AVG training would generalize to deep English orthography, remain two critical questions. During reading acquisition, children have to integrate written letters with speech sounds, rapidly shifting their attention from visual to auditory modality. In our study, we tested reading skills and phonological working memory, visuo-spatial attention, auditory, visual and audio-visual stimuli localization, and cross-sensory attentional shifting in two matched groups of English-speaking children with dyslexia before and after they played AVG or non-action video games. The speed of words recognition and phonological decoding increased after playing AVG, but not non-action video games. Furthermore, focused visuo-spatial attention and visual-to-auditory attentional shifting also improved only after AVG training. This unconventional reading remediation program also increased phonological short-term memory and phoneme blending skills. Our report shows that an enhancement of visuo-spatial attention and phonological working memory, and an acceleration of visual-to-auditory attentional shifting can directly translate into better reading in English-speaking children with dyslexia.