Atypical Relationships Between Neurofunctional Features of Print-Sound Integration and Reading Abilities in Chinese Children With Dyslexia

Frontiers in Psychology 12 (2022)
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Abstract

Conquering print-sound mappings is vital for developing fluent reading skills. In neuroimaging research, this ability can be indexed by activation differences between audiovisual congruent against incongruent conditions in brain areas such as the left superior temporal cortex. In line with it, individuals with dyslexia have difficulty in tasks requiring print-sound processing, accompanied by a reduced neural integration. However, existing evidence is almost restricted to alphabetic languages. Whether and how multisensory processing of print and sound is impaired in Chinese dyslexia remains underexplored. In this study, we applied a passive audiovisual integration paradigm with functional magnetic resonance imaging to investigate the possible dysfunctions in processing character-sound and pinyin-sound associations in Chinese dyslexic children. Unexpectedly, the dyslexic group did not show reduced neural integration compared with typically developing readers in either character or pinyin experiment. However, the results revealed atypical correlations between neural integration and different reading abilities in dyslexia. Specifically, while the neural integration in the left inferior frontal cortex in processing character-sound pairs correlated with silent reading comprehension in both children with and without dyslexia, it was associated with morphological awareness in controls but with rapid naming in dyslexics. This result indicates Chinese dyslexic children may not use the same grapho-semantic processing strategy as their typical peers do. As for pinyin-sound processing, while a stronger neural integration in the direction of “congruent > incongruent” in the left occipito-temporal cortex and bilateral superior temporal cortices was associated with better oral reading fluency in the control group, an opposite pattern was found in dyslexia. This finding may reflect dyslexia's dysfunctional recruitment of the regions in grapho-phonological processing, which further impedes character learning.

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