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Poster D21, Thursday, November 9, 6:15 – 7:30 pm, Harborview and Loch Raven Ballrooms

Developmental change in cerebellar white matter pathways is associated with reading proficiency in children

Lauren R. Borchers1, Trang H. Nguyen1, Lisa Bruckert1, Katherine E. Travis1, Michal Ben-Shachar2, Bruce D. McCandliss1, Heidi M. Feldman1;1Stanford University, 2Bar Ilan University

A distributed network of cortical areas and their white matter connections have been linked to reading proficiency (Price, 2012; Wandell & Yeatman, 2013). A recent cross-sectional study demonstrated that microstructural properties of cerebellar pathways were negatively associated with reading skills in children aged 9y-17y (Travis et al., 2014). Longitudinal studies estimate individual change and therefore allow better understanding of the coupling between developmental processes in the cerebellar white matter and reading. In this study, we examined two longitudinal datasets to determine whether changes in fractional anisotropy (FA) of the cerebellar peduncles were associated with individual differences in reading skills. Sample 1 included 35 children (M age time 1 = 6.21y, 14 males), scanned at age 6y with a two-year follow-up using a dual-spin echo diffusion-weighted sequence (3T, 30 diffusion directions at b=1000 s/mm2, 3 volumes at b=0, voxel size 2 x 2 x 2 mm3). Sample 2 included 28 children (M age at time 1= 7.92y, 13 males) scanned between age 5y-9y with a one-year follow-up (3T, 32 diffusion directions at b=700 s/mm2, 1 volume at b=0, voxel size 2 x 2 x 2 mm3). The Automated Fiber Quantification software package (Yeatman et al., 2012) was employed to segment whole brain deterministic tractograms and calculate mean FA of the inferior (ICP), superior (SCP), and middle cerebellar peduncles (MCP) at both time points in both samples. Developmental change in white matter properties was assessed by subtracting mean FA of a given tract at time 1 from time 2. Reading skills were assessed using the Word Identification (Sample 1 & 2) and Passage Comprehension (Sample 1) subtests of the Woodcock Reading Mastery Tests. Pearson correlations were used to assess the strength of association between mean FA change and standardized reading scores at time 1. FA increased from time 1 to time 2 for all cerebellar peduncles in Sample 1, while only the ICP and SCP increased in Sample 2. Single-word reading was negatively correlated with the change in FA of the left SCP in both samples (Sample 1: r = -0.36, p = .038, n = 34; Sample 2: r = -0.46, p = .015, n = 27). Further analysis of Sample 1 confirmed that these associations extended beyond single-word reading, with reading comprehension being negatively correlated with the left SCP (r = -0.42, p = .014, n = 34) and right ICP (r = -0.37, p = .042, n = 30). These findings suggest that higher reading scores were associated with a decrease in FA over time. The results demonstrate negative correlations between reading skills and change in white matter properties of the cerebellar peduncles in young children. These findings are consistent with cross-sectional results observed in older children (Travis et al., 2014). Our data support the concept that the development of efficient transfer of information between the cortex and cerebellum is an important factor explaining individual differences in reading. On-going studies are exploring the factors associated with efficient transfer in cerebellar pathways, such as crossing fibers or myelin content.

Topic Area: Language Development

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