Alterations in neural circuits supporting executive functions in children with reading difficulties
Tzipi Horowitz-Kraus1,2, Rola Farah1; 1Educational Neuroimaging Center, Faculty of Education in Science and Technology, Technion, Haifa, Israel, 2Reading and Literacy Discovery Center, General Pediatrics, Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, Ohio, USA
Reading difficulties have been linked to challenges in engaging executive functions (EF) while reading, such as working memory, attention, and speed of processing. Our study was designed to directly define the differences in neural processing during the Stroop task, which is a classical EF task, in children with reading difficulties compared with typical readers. Reading and EF abilities were assessed in 8-12 year-old children with reading difficulties and typical readers. Functional connectivity and global efficiency of several cognitive-control networks during a functional MRI Stroop task were defined in both groups. Children with reading difficulties showed lower reading and EF abilities and demonstrated greater functional connectivity between the EF network and visual, language, and cognitive-control regions during the Stroop task compared to typical readers. Our results suggest that children with reading difficulties utilize neural circuits supporting EF more so than do typical readers in order to perform an EF task. The connection between reading and EF suggests that insufficient triggering of EF in childhood will harm reading acquisition later in life. It also suggests that an EF-based training in childhood has the potential to improve future reading abilities in children.
Topic Area: EXECUTIVE PROCESSES: Development & aging