Poster F63, Tuesday, March 28, 8:00 – 10:00 am, Pacific Concourse
Text type matters during reading development: informational texts require specialized brain networks compared to stories
Katherine Aboud1, Stephen Bailey1, Jonathan Scheff1, Laurie Cutting1; 1Vanderbilt University
Successful reading comprehension in elementary school is a key predictor of long-term educational outcomes, and requires adequate skill in both narrative and expository/informational reading (e.g. stories versus science/history texts). The Common Core State Standards of education have recently emphasized the importance of expository reading by encouraging its introduction in first grade (~7 years old), rather than later elementary school. While behavioral studies suggest that expository texts require additional cognitive processes, no studies to date have examined whether comprehension of different text genres requires overlapping or distinct neural systems. In the current study, we tested for the first time whether, neurobiologically, expository text is simply “more difficult” narrative, or requires the development/use of specialized brain networks. To address this question, we used functional MRI to examine third graders (mean age = 9.4; n = 35) with typical word-level reading ability and IQ as they read narrative and expository passages. We found that both genres required recruitment of bilateral language areas as well as fronto-parietal, domain-general regions. However, while narrative text relied on the use of higher-order areas in the default mode network, expository texts involved robust recruitment of the frontoparietal control network—a system necessary for working memory and organizing information. In a key finding, readers who struggled with expository relative to narrative comprehension demonstrated less neural distinction between genres, particularly in the left prefrontal cortex. Our results imply that successful reading comprehension requires neural specialization for different types of texts—findings which have broad interventional implications for struggling readers.
Topic Area: LANGUAGE: Development & aging