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Poster C15, Thursday, November 9, 10:00 – 11:15 am, Harborview and Loch Raven Ballrooms

Associating children’s reading and mathematics subskills with resting-state functional connectivity

Alexandra Cross1, Reshma Ramdajal2, Christine L. Stager3, Maureen W. Lovett4,5, Karen A. Steinbach4, Jan C. Frijters6, Elizabeth P. Hayden1, Lisa M.D. Archibald1, Marc F. Joanisse1;1University of Western Ontario, 2Erasmus University Rotterdam, 3Thames Valley District School Board, 4The Hospital for Sick Children, 5University of Toronto, 6Brock University

Reading disability (RD, sometimes termed ‘dyslexia’) affects approximately 10% of otherwise typically developing children. Variability in profiles of RD and response to intervention has led to difficulty characterizing the underlying impairments and the cause of RD. Many functional magnetic resonance imaging studies (fMRI) comparing the brains of struggling and typical readers rely on reading tasks, making it difficult to determine whether brain differences are due to differences in task-based performance or differences in underlying neural organization. The present study addresses these issues using resting-state fMRI, a technique that measures inter-regional correlations of spontaneous fluctuations in neural activity. Past studies have demonstrated that in typical readers, individual differences in single-word reading ability correlate with connectivity in subregions of the brain’s reading network during resting states. However, much less is known about how functional connectivity relates to poor reading performance, especially with respect to cognitive subskills known to be related to reading success. The present study addressed this by correlating resting-state connectivity among reading network regions with children’s reading subskills, including phonology, rapid serial naming, and comprehension, along with a more general measure of mathematical ability. Participants were children enrolled in grades 4-6 in local schools with a range of reading abilities, including a subset identified with RD. Children completed a resting-state scan at 3 Tesla, a high-resolution anatomical scan, and a behavioural testing session in which reading fluency, phonological decoding, reading comprehension, and mathematics were assessed. A regression model then assessed how connectivity patterns within the brain’s reading network related to indicators of reading subcomponents including sight word reading, nonword decoding, rapid automatized naming and comprehension. Individual differences in sight word reading, nonword decoding and rapid automatized naming were all positively correlated with connectivity between thalamus and frontal cortex including left pre-central gyrus, supplementary motor area, and inferior frontal gyrus. In contrast, reading comprehension was related to increased connectivity within frontal, temporal, and parietal areas of the reading network. Math measures were positively correlated with connectivity in ventral temporal and inferior parietal areas previously implicated in studies of both numerical cognition and reading. Together, the results demonstrate how divergent subregions of the reading network independently relate to differences in the cognitive components of reading. They also indicate an overlap in neurocognitive substrates of reading and mathematics, suggesting similar processes may underlie these skills, and could explain the comorbidities of disorders of reading and math.

Topic Area: Language Development

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