Cortical responses to letters and ambiguous speech vary with reading skills in dyslexic and typically reading children

Linda Romanovska*, Roef Janssen, Milene Bonte

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


One of the proposed issues underlying reading difficulties in dyslexia is insufficiently automatized letter-speech sound associations. In the current fMRI experiment, we employ text-based recalibration to investigate letter-speech sound mappings in 8-10 year-old children with and without dyslexia. Here an ambiguous speech sound /a?a/ midway between /aba/ and /ada/ is combined with disambiguating "aba" or "ada" text causing a perceptual shift of the ambiguous /a?a/ sound towards the text (recalibration). This perceptual shift has been found to be reduced in adults but not in children with dyslexia compared to typical readers. Our fMRI results show significantly reduced activation in the left fusiform in dyslexic compared to typical readers, despite comparable behavioural performance. Furthermore, enhanced audio-visual activation within this region was linked to better reading and phonological skills. In contrast, higher activation in bilateral superior temporal cortex was associated with lower letter-speech sound identification fluency. These findings reflect individual differences during the early stages of reading development with reduced recruitment of the left fusiform in dyslexic readers together with an increased involvement of the superior temporal cortex in children with less automatized letter-speech sound associations.

Original languageEnglish
Article number102588
JournalNeuroImage: Clinical
Publication statusPublished - 12 Feb 2021

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