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Poster E52, Saturday, August 18, 3:00 – 4:45 pm, Room 2000AB

The Relationship Between Socioeconomic Status and White Matter Coherence in Pre-Reading Children: A Longitudinal Investigation

Ola Ozernov-Palchik1,4, Elizabeth S Norton2, Yingying Wang3, Sara D. Beach1, Jennifer Zuk4, John D. E. Gabrieli1, Nadine Gaab4;1Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences and McGovern Institute for Brain Research, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA, 2Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, Department of Medical Social Sciences, and Institute for Innovations in Developmental Sciences, Northwestern University, Evanston, IL, 3College of Education and Human Sciences, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, NE, 4Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts Boston Children’s Hospital, Boston, MA, 5Laboratories of Cognitive Neuroscience, Division of Developmental Medicine, Department of Medicine, Boston Children’s Hospital, Boston, MA

Reading is a learned skill crucial for educational attainment. Children from families of lower socioeconomic status (SES) tend to have poorer reading outcomes and this gap widens across years of schooling. Reading relies on the orchestration of multiple neural systems integrated via specific white-matter pathways, but there is limited understanding about whether these pathways relate differentially to reading performance depending on SES background. Kindergarten white-matter coherence and second grade reading outcomes were investigated in an SES-diverse sample of 121 children that was divided into higher-SES (n = 61) and lower-SES (n = 60) groups. The three left-hemispheric white-matter tracts most associated with reading were examined: arcuate fasciculus (AF), superior longitudinal fasciculus (SLF), and inferior longitudinal fasciculus (ILF). Children from lower-SES families had significantly reduced fractional anisotropy (FA) in the occipitotemporal segment of the left ILF in kindergarten. In lower-SES children, but not in higher-SES children, higher FA in this segment in kindergarten was associated with better second-grade reading outcomes. Random forests classification revealed that the parental reading history, IQ, home literacy environment, and FA in the right SLF discriminated with 78% accuracy between lower-SES children who developed into good versus poor readers in second grade. These results have implications for understanding the role of the environment in the development of the neural pathways that support reading, and the possible neural mechanisms of successful reading development in children from lower-SES backgrounds.

Topic Area: Language Development