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Intact But Less Accessible Phonetic Representations in Adults with Dyslexia

Science  06 Dec 2013:
Vol. 342, Issue 6163, pp. 1251-1254
DOI: 10.1126/science.1244333

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Good Foundations, Poor Access

Dyslexia makes reading and spelling difficult. Boets et al. (p. 1251) analyzed whether for adult readers with dyslexia the internal references for word sounds are poorly constructed or whether accessing those references is abnormally difficult. Brain imaging during phonetic discrimination tasks suggested that the internal dictionary for word sounds was correct, but accessing the dictionary was more difficult than normal.

Abstract

Dyslexia is a severe and persistent reading and spelling disorder caused by impairment in the ability to manipulate speech sounds. We combined functional magnetic resonance brain imaging with multivoxel pattern analysis and functional and structural connectivity analysis in an effort to disentangle whether dyslexics’ phonological deficits are caused by poor quality of the phonetic representations or by difficulties in accessing intact phonetic representations. We found that phonetic representations are hosted bilaterally in primary and secondary auditory cortices and that their neural quality (in terms of robustness and distinctness) is intact in adults with dyslexia. However, the functional and structural connectivity between the bilateral auditory cortices and the left inferior frontal gyrus (a region involved in higher-level phonological processing) is significantly hampered in dyslexics, suggesting deficient access to otherwise intact phonetic representations.

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