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Poster A5, Wednesday, November 8, 10:30 – 11:45 am, Harborview and Loch Raven Ballrooms

Brain and Clinical Predictors of Unique Brain Connectivity for Adjacent Levels of Language in the Reading Brain: Managing a Complex, Multi-Leveled System

Virginia Berninger1, Todd Richards1, Robert Abbott1;1University of Washington, Seattle

Introduction: Our programmatic research has shown that referring to language and reading, as many literacy researchers and clinical neuropsychologists do, is inaccurate. Language teams with sensory or motor systems in language by ear (listening), language by mouth (oral expression), language by eye (reading), and language by hand (written expression), and in each system cascades from subword to word to syntax to text levels. In this study we extended prior research on common and unique fMRI connectivity at adjacent subword, word, syntax, and text levels for the reading system in typical readers to reading disabilities—dyslexia (impaired word reading/decoding) and oral and written language learning disability (impaired syntactic reading comprehension). To understand how a complex, multi-leveled system is managed, focus was on connectivity with brain regions known to be involved in executive functions and clinical measures of executive functions. Methods: Students in grades 4 to 9 (4 males, 5 females with no reading disability; 10 males, 6 females with dyslexia; 2 males, 3 females with OWL LD) completed diagnostic assessment and then four multi-leveled fMRI reading tasks: judgments about permissible grapheme-phoneme correspondences, correct word-specific spellings versus homonyms, meaningfulness of sentences with and without homonym foils, and correct choice for answering question about multi-sentence text. These were programmed, timed, and coordinated with scanner triggers using E-prime and in-house LabView software. Participants had to complete tasks outside the scanner with 90% accuracy to enter the Philips 3 T Achieva scanner (release 3.2.2 with 32-channel head coil). fMRI connectivity maps, corrected for motion using FSL MCFLIRT, were generated for individuals from four seeds: left precuneus, left occipital temporal cortex, left supramarginal, and left inferior frontal gyrus. For each task, after controlling for multiple comparisons, unique brain connectivity for each adjacent level of language was identified in the controls without reading disability; then we examined that connectivity for those brain regions shown in prior research to involve executive functions or language regulation (left and right cingulate, left and right inferior frontal cortex, secondary somatosensory/operculum, insula, and cerebellum V or vermis) for the control, dyslexia, and OWL LD groups. We also correlated clinical measures of executive functions with those regions. Results and Discussion: For the controls without reading disability significant unique connectivity was found for each leveled language fMRI task with one or more of the brain regions known to be involved in executive functions for at least one seed and often more. From the same seeds, the dyslexia group did not differ from the controls where controls showed connectivity unique for a level of language, but differed in showing over-connectivity to other regions where controls did not. The OWL LD group did not always show connectivity where the controls did and tended to show under-connectivity compared to controls. Rapid Automatic Switching (Wolf & Denckla, 2003) was significantly correlated with magnitude of connectivity with the fMRI word-level and text-level tasks and with number of significant connections from at least one but not always the same seed point for the subword-, word-, syntax-, and text-level fMRI tasks.

Topic Area: Control, Selection, and Executive Processes

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