Authors: Xi Yu, Jennifer Zuk, Meaghan V. Perdue, Ola Ozernov-Palchik, Talia Raney, Sara D. Beach, Elizabeth S. Norton, Yangming O, John D. E. Gabrieli, Nadine Gaab.
Article: Putative protective neural mechanisms in pre-readers with a family history of dyslexia who subsequently develop typical reading skills.
Publication: Human Brain Mapping (Wiley). 2020 | DOI: 10.1002/hbm.24980
Developmental dyslexia is a learning disability characterized by difficulties in word reading. While the prevalence in the general public is around 10-12%, an increased prevalence of 40-60% has been reported for children with a familial risk. Neural atypicalities in the reading network have been observed in children with (FHD+) compared to without (FHD-) a family history of dyslexia, even before reading onset. Despite the hereditary risk, about half of FHD+ children develop typical reading abilities (FHD+Typical) but the underlying neural characteristics and the developmental trajectories of these favorable reading outcomes remain unknown. Utilizing a retrospective, longitudinal approach, this is the first study to examine whether potential protective neural mechanisms are present before reading onset in FHD+Typical. Functional and structural brain characteristics were examined in 69 pre-readers who subsequently developed typical reading abilities (35 FHD+Typical/34 FHD-Typical) using MRI/fMRI. Searchlight-based multivariate pattern analyses identified distinct activation patterns during phonological processing between FHD+Typical and FHD-Typical in right inferior frontal (RIFG) and left temporo-parietal (LTPC) regions. Hypoactivation in LTPC was further demonstrated in FHD+Typical compared to FHD-Typical, suggesting that this previously reported neural characteristic of dyslexia is primarily associated with familial risk. Importantly, FHD+Typical pre-readers exhibited higher activation in RIFG than FHD-Typical, which was associated with increased interhemispheric functional and structural connectivity. These results suggest that putative protective neural mechanisms are already established in FHD+Typical pre-readers and may therefore support their successful reading development. Further studies are needed to investigate the functional significance and developmental trajectories of these neural mechanisms as well as their enabling factors, which has the potential to inform the design of early preventative/remediation strategies.