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Peer-Reviewed Articles

Gray matter volume changes following reading intervention in dyslexic children

Abstract

Studies in children and adults with the reading disability developmental dyslexia have shown behavioral improvements after reading intervention. In another line of work, it has been shown that intensive training in a variety of cognitive and sensorimotor skills can result in changes in gray matter volume (GMV). This study examined changes in GMV following intensive reading intervention in children with dyslexia using voxel-based morphometry (VBM). Eleven dyslexic children underwent an eight week training focused on mental imagery, articulation and tracing of letters, groups of letters and words, which resulted in significant gains in reading skills. This was followed by an eight week null period (control) where no intervention was administered and no further significant gains in reading were observed. Structural scans were obtained before the intervention, after the intervention and after the null period. GMV increases between the first two time points were found in the left anterior fusiform gyrus/hippocampus, left precuneus, right hippocampus and right anterior cerebellum. However, these areas did not change between time points two and three (control period), suggesting that the changes were specific to the intervention period. These results demonstrate for the first time that (1) training-induced changes in GMV can be observed in a pediatric sample and (2) reading improvements induced by intervention are accompanied by GMV changes.

Research Article NeuroImage

Conclusion

This study showed gains in reading skills and increased gray matter volume (GMV) in dyslexic children after an eight week reading intervention [using Lindamood-Bell’s Seeing Stars® program]. GMV increases were observed in the left hemisphere in anterior fusiform/hippocampus and precuneus. The left anterior fusiform region is commonly engaged in tasks involving object processing and object naming and may suggest that the dyslexic students are relying on this region to help improve their processing of words. The left precuneus has been implicated in visual imagery and specifically in tasks involving imagery of individual letters. Right hemisphere GMV changes following the intervention were found in the cerebellum and hippocampus. There is a theoretical framework implicating the cerebellum in dyslexia and this study adds a novel contribution to this theory. Finally, the GMV increases in the left hippocampus (extending from the cluster reported for the anterior fusiform gyrus) and right hippocampus may reflect more general learning that is occurring during the intervention. The increases in GMV were restricted to the intervention period and were not observed after the intervention ended, suggesting that these increases in GMV are related to the intervention. This is the first longitudinal VBM analysis in children and demonstrates that changes in brain structure are brought about by intervention. These findings provide encouragement that learning can result in both lasting behavioral and structural changes in children who struggle in learning to read. Further investigation will improve understanding not only for how the brain responds to learning, but in how these findings may be translated into refining interventions and improving the learning experience.

Reference

NeuroImage

Krafnick, Anthony J., D. Lynn Flowers, Eileen M. Napoliello, and Guinevere F. Eden. 2011. “Gray Matter Volume Changes Following Reading Intervention in Dyslexic Children.”NeuroImage 57 (3): 733–741.

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