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The role of brain activity in characterizing successful reading intervention in children with dyslexia

Krafnick, A. J., Napoliello, E. M., Flowers, D. L., & Eden, G. F. (2022) Frontiers in Neuroscience, 16. doi=10.3389/fnins.2022.898661 

Studies of reading intervention in dyslexia have shown changes in performance and in brain function. However, there is little consistency in the location of brain regions associated with successful reading gains in children, most likely due to variability/limitations in methodologies (study design, participant criteria, and neuroimaging procedures). Ultimately for the results to be meaningful, the intervention has to be successful, be assessed against a control, use rigorous statistics, and take biological variables (sex) into consideration. Using a randomized, crossover design, 31 children with dyslexia were assigned to a phonological- and orthographic-based tutoring period as well as a within-subjects control period to examine: (1) interventioninduced changes in behavior (reading performance) and in brain activity (during reading); and (2) behavioral and brain activity pre-intervention data that predicted interventioninduced gains in reading performance. We found gains in reading ability following the intervention, but not following the control period, with no effect of participants’ sex. However, there were no changes in brain activity following the intervention (regardless of sex), suggesting that individual brain changes are too variable to be captured at the group level. Reading gains were not predicted by pre-intervention behavioral data, but were predicted by pre-intervention brain activity in bilateral supramarginal/angular gyri. Notably, some of this prediction was only found in females. Our results highlight the limitations of brain imaging in detecting the neural correlates of reading intervention in this age group, while providing further evidence for its utility in assessing eventual success of intervention, especially if sex is taken into consideration.

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