Authors: Muriel A. Lobier, Carole Peyrin, Cédric Pichat, Jean-François Le Bas, and Sylviane Valdois.

Article: Visual processing of multiple elements in the dyslexic brain: evidence for a superior parietal dysfunction.

Publication: Frontiers in Human Neuroscience (Frontiers). 8:479 2014 | DOI: 10.3389/fnhum.2014.00479

[Full Text]


The visual attention (VA) span deficit hypothesis of developmental dyslexia posits that impaired multiple element processing can be responsible for poor reading outcomes. In VA span impaired dyslexic children, poor performance on letter report tasks is associated with reduced parietal activations for multiple letter processing. While this hints towards a non-specific, attention-based dysfunction, it is still unclear whether reduced parietal activity generalizes to other types of stimuli. Furthermore, putative links between reduced parietal activity and reduced ventral occipito-temporal (vOT) in dyslexia have yet to be explored. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging, we measured brain activity in 12 VA span impaired dyslexic adults and 12 adult skilled readers while they carried out a categorization task on single or multiple alphanumeric or non-alphanumeric characters. While healthy readers activated parietal areas more strongly for multiple than single element processing (right-sided for alphanumeric and bilateral for non-alphanumeric), similar stronger multiple element right parietal activations were absent for dyslexic participants. Contrasts between skilled and dyslexic readers revealed significantly reduced right superior parietal lobule (SPL) activity for dyslexic readers regardless of stimuli type. Using a priori anatomically defined regions of interest, we showed that neural activity was reduced for dyslexic participants in both SPL and vOT bilaterally. Finally, we used multiple regressions to test whether SPL activity was related to vOT activity in each group. In the left hemisphere, SPL activity covaried with vOT activity for both normal and dyslexic readers. In contrast, in the right hemisphere, SPL activity covaried with vOT activity only for dyslexic readers. These results bring critical support to the VA interpretation of the VA Span deficit. In addition, they offer a new insight on how deficits in automatic vOT based word recognition could arise in developmental dyslexia.

Tagged as: visual attention, visual attention span, and visual processing


Lobier MA, Peyrin C, Pichat C, Le Bas J-F and Valdois S (2014) Visual processing of multiple elements in the dyslexic brain: evidence for a superior parietal dysfunction. Front. Hum. Neurosci. 8:479. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2014.00479

Excerpts from Full Text / Notes:

Implications for the VA Span Hypothesis of Dyslexia

While previous studies had reported decreased activations in SPL for ME processing in VA Span impaired dyslexia [citations] this is the first study to do so by using a non-verbal task requiring verbal and non-verbal stimuli processing. Our results bring forward new evidence for a visual-attention account of the VA Span deficit.

Implications for Neurobiological Models of Dyslexia

Neurobiological accounts of dyslexia, in line with classic models of reading usually highlight neural dysfunction of the left hemisphere reading network as a hallmark of dyslexia.  These functional deficits are present in brain areas thought to subtend phonological processing (left inferior frontal, and parieto-temporal gyri) and orthographic word processing …. However, this model fails to account for a number of empirical findings. First, there is mounting evidence that while a number of dyslexic children do in fact have a phonological deficit, a non-negligible number do not …. Second, a recent meta-analyses of brain imaging studies of dyslexic children and adults has failed to find unilateral evidence for a contrasted pattern of predominant left temporo-parietal dysfunction in children and predominant left vOT dysfunction in adults …. These results suggest that reduced print tuning and orthographic specificity of left vOT cortex in dyslexia could follow from alternative disruption in the learning to read process.

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