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Socioeconomic Status and Reading Disability: Neuroanatomy and Plasticity in Response to Intervention

Romeo, R. R., Christodoulou, J. A., Halverson, K. K., Murtagh, J., Cyr, A. B., Schimmel, C., … Chang, P. (2017). Socioeconomic status and reading disability: Neuroanatomy and plasticity in response to intervention. Cerebral Cortex, 28, 2297-2312. doi:10.1093/cercor/bhx131

Abstract

Although reading disability (RD) and socioeconomic status (SES) are independently associated with variation in reading ability and brain structure/function, the joint influence of SES and RD on neuroanatomy and/or response to intervention is unknown. In total, 65 children with RD (ages 6-9) with diverse SES were assigned to an intensive, 6-week summer reading intervention (n = 40) or to a waiting-list control group (n = 25). Before and after, all children completed standardized reading assessments and magnetic resonance imaging to measure cortical thickness. At baseline, higher SES correlated with greater vocabulary and greater cortical thickness in bilateral perisylvian and supramarginal regions-especially in left pars opercularis. Within the intervention group, lower SES was associated with both greater reading improvement and greater cortical thickening across broad, bilateral occipitotemporal and temporoparietal regions following the intervention. Additionally, treatment responders (n = 20), compared with treatment nonresponders (n = 19), exhibited significantly greater cortical thickening within similar regions. The waiting control and nonresponder groups exhibited developmentally typical, nonsignificant cortical thinning during this time period. These findings indicate that effective summer reading intervention is coupled with cortical growth, and is especially beneficial for children with RD who come from lower-SES home environments.

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