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The structural covariance of reading-related brain regions in adults and children with typical reading skills and developmental dyslexia

Poster B121 in Poster Session B, Tuesday, October 24, 3:30 - 5:15 pm CEST, Espace Vieux-Port

Amelie Haugg1,2, Nada Frei1,2, Christina Lutz1, Sarah V. Di Pietro1,3, Iliana I. Karipidis1,2,4, Silvia Brem1,2,3,4; 1Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and psychotherapy, Psychiatric University Hospital Zurich, University of Zurich, Switzerland, 2Swiss National Centre of Competence in Research Evolving Language, 3University Research Priority Project Adaptive Brain Circuit in Development and Learning, 4Neuroscience Center Zurich, University of Zurich and ETH Zurich, Switzerland

Reading is a fundamental skill in our society, however, approximately 5-10% of the population suffer from developmental dyslexia (DD), a specific learning disorder characterized by significant impairments in reading performance. Understanding the neural underpinnings of DD is a crucial step toward the development of targeted interventions. Here, we investigated structural covariance (SC) of key regions within the brain’s reading network in adults and children with typical reading skills as well as DD. SC analyses provide insights into how structural brain measures, such as grey matter volume, co-vary across the brain and are likely to reflect both structural and functional connectivity information. For typical-reading adults (N=134), we conducted seed-based whole-brain SC analyses on grey matter volume for six key brain regions of the reading network: the anterior/lexical Visual Word Form Area (VWFA_lex) as well as the posterior/perceptual Visual Word Form Area (VWFA_per), the left Superior Temporal Gyrus (STG), the left Inferior Frontal Gyrus (IFG), the left Precentral Gyrus (PCG), and the left Inferior Parietal Lobule (IPL). Additionally, we compared SC matrices for five of these key regions between typical-reading adults (N=134) and children (N=110) as well as between children with typical reading skills (N=110) and DD (N=68). Finally, seed-based SC analyses were performed using the two VWFA subregions as seeds for both groups of children. In typical-reading adults, all key reading regions except for the PCG, exhibited significant associations with spatially distinct areas across the brain, which partially included key reading-related regions. Specifically, the VWFA_per seed demonstrated significant associations with brain regions in the left occipital cortex, while the VWFA_lex seed was found to be associated with the left STG and left IFG. Furthermore, associations between the IPL and IFG were observed. When comparing SC matrices between typical-reading adults and children, no significant differences were found. However, comparisons between children with and without DD revealed a significant difference between the corresponding SC matrices. Post-hoc analyses indicated that this difference was primarily driven by significantly stronger associations between the left IPL and the other reading-related brain regions in typical-reading children as compared to the children with DD. Finally, seed-based SC analyses of the two VWFA seeds demonstrated that, in children with DD, VWFA subregions were exclusively associated with the ventral occipitotemporal cortex. In contrast, in typical-reading children, VWFA_lex showed significant associations with the STG and insula, while VWFA_per demonstrated associations with the right IPL. For the first time, we showed the SC of reading-related brain regions across different ages and reading skills. Our findings suggest that the organization of grey matter volume in reading-related brain regions may, partially, be explained by reading processes. Moreover, they provide additional evidence for the functional and structural division of the VWFA into a lexical and a perceptual part. Finally, the study highlights the importance of the IPL for fluent reading. Overall, our findings offer valuable insights into the organization of grey matter volume in reading-related brain regions and underscore the need to consider these complex interactions when investigating the neurobiology of reading and developmental dyslexia.

Topic Areas: Reading, Disorders: Developmental

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