Anatomical risk factors that distinguish dyslexia from SLI predict reading skill in normal children

J Commun Disord. 2002 Nov-Dec;35(6):501-31. doi: 10.1016/s0021-9924(02)00120-x.


These studies investigated whether anatomical measures could separate phonologically-based reading disability (PD) from nonphonologically-based learning disabilities such as specific language impairment (SLI). In a previous study. four brain measures (cerebral asymmetry. summed planum temporale and parietale asymmetry, anterior cerebellar asymmetry, and a duplicated left Heschl's gyrus) distinguished a group of PD adults from reading disabled adults without specific phonological deficits (URD). Study 1 found that these measures did not distinguish 14 reading disabled children from 21 children with SLI. Instead, differences were found in cerebral volume, planum temporale asymmetry, and the size of a single left Heschl's gyrus. Study 2 demonstrated that including all seven measures in a discriminant analysis separated the adults and children into two groups: one with 100% of the PD adults and 75% of the reading disabled children and the other with 72% of the SLI children and 75% of the URD adults. Study 3 demonstrated that an anatomical risk factor index (ARF7) generated from the discriminant function with seven brain measures predicted reading in normal children. Children with ARF7 near 0 (normal anatomy) had superior verbal ability and phonological decoding scores that improved with age. Normal children with negative ARF7 the relatively s mall symmetrical structures that characterize SLI)had deficits in verbal ability. Children with positive ARF7 (the asymmetrical structures that characterize PD) had phonological decoding scores that decreased with age. These results suggest that PD and SLI are qualitatively different disorders associated with anatomical deviations in opposite directions from the population mean.

Learning outcomes: As a result of this activity, the participant will be able to: (1) distinguish the neuroanatomical features that characterize PD and SLI; (2) recognize that PD is associated with large asymmetrical brain structures while SLI is associated with smaller symmetrical brain structures; (3) understand that children with moderate sized brains and whose anatomy is intermediate between symmetry and extreme asymmetry have an enhanced probability of developing good verbal ability; (4) understand that reading disabilities depend on the interaction of neurodevelopment and the environment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Brain / abnormalities*
  • Brain / physiopathology*
  • Child
  • Dyslexia / diagnosis*
  • Dyslexia / physiopathology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Language Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Language Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Phonetics
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Severity of Illness Index