Poster D127, Monday, March 27, 8:00 – 10:00 am, Pacific Concourse
The role of the structural connectome in literacy and numeracy development in children
Joe Bathelt1, Susan Gathercole1, Sally Butterfield1, Duncan Astle1; 1MRC Cognition & Brain Sciences Unit
Literacy and numeracy are fundamental skills acquired in childhood, a time that coincides with considerable shifts in large-scale brain organisation. However, most studies emphasise focal brain contributions to literacy and numeracy development by employing case-control designs in groups with selective deficits and voxel-by-voxel statistical comparisons. This approach is unlikely to capture the importance of broad differences in brain organisation that typically characterise brain development. In contrast, the current study was based on a more representative sample of 59 children between 6 and 16 years with varying levels of reading and maths ability, including difficulties in both domains. Further, broader differences in brain organisation were evaluated using a whole-brain structural connectome approach based on diffusion-weighted MRI data. Our results indicate an association between literacy and numeracy development in a distributed network of white matter connections that extends beyond regions implicated in a voxel-wise analysis. Further, graph theory measures of network organisation (characteristic path length, global clustering coefficient) were correlated with higher reading and maths scores. In addition, simulated disruption indicated that highly-connected regions that are particularly important for optimal network organisation also related to higher reading and maths performance. Together these findings show that changes in large-scale brain organisation contribute to literacy and numeracy development as children grow up.
Topic Area: THINKING: Development & aging