Authors: John R. Kershner.

Article: An Evolutionary Perspective of Dyslexia, Stress, and Brain Network Homeostasis.

Publication: Frontiers in Human Neuroscience (Frontiers). 14, 575546 2022 | DOI: 10.3389/fnhum.2020.575546

[Full Text] [PubMed]

Evolution fuels interindividual variability in neuroplasticity, reflected in brain anatomy and functional connectivity of the expanding neocortical regions subserving reading ability. Such variability is orchestrated by an evolutionarily conserved, competitive balance between epigenetic, stress-induced, and cognitive-growth gene expression programs. An evolutionary developmental model of dyslexia, suggests that prenatal and childhood subclinical stress becomes a risk factor for dyslexia when physiological adaptations to stress promoting adaptive fitness, may attenuate neuroplasticity in the brain regions recruited for reading. Stress has the potential to blunt the cognitive-growth functions of the predominantly right hemisphere Ventral and Dorsal attention networks, which are primed with high entropic levels of synaptic plasticity, and are critical for acquiring beginning reading skills. The attentional networks, in collaboration with the stress-responsive Default Mode network, modulate the entrainment and processing of the low frequency auditory oscillations (1–8 Hz) and visuospatial orienting linked etiologically to dyslexia. Thus, dyslexia may result from positive, but costly adaptations to stress system dysregulation: protective measures that reset the stress/growth balance of processing to favor the Default Mode network, compromising development of the attentional networks. Such a normal-variability conceptualization of dyslexia is at odds with the frequent assumption that dyslexia results from a neurological abnormality. To put the normal-variability model in the broader perspective of the state of the field, a traditional evolutionary account of dyslexia is presented to stimulate discussion of the scientific merits of the two approaches.

Tagged as: attentional system, default network, disorientation, neural oscillations, orientation, stress, and visuospatial orienting


Kershner, J. R. (2021). An Evolutionary Perspective of Dyslexia, Stress, and Brain Network Homeostasis. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 14, 575546.

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