Neural systems for compensation and persistence: young adult outcome of childhood reading disability

Biol Psychiatry. 2003 Jul 1;54(1):25-33. doi: 10.1016/s0006-3223(02)01836-x.


Background: This study examined whether and how two groups of young adults who were poor readers as children (a relatively compensated group and a group with persistent reading difficulties) differed from nonimpaired readers and if there were any factors distinguishing the compensated from persistently poor readers that might account for their different outcomes.

Methods: Using functional magnetic resonance imaging, we studied three groups of young adults, ages 18.5-22.5 years, as they read pseudowords and real words: 1) persistently poor readers (PPR; n = 24); 2) accuracy improved (compensated) readers (AIR; n = 19); and 3) nonimpaired readers (NI, n = 27).

Results: Compensated readers, who are accurate but not fluent, demonstrate a relative underactivation in posterior neural systems for reading located in left parietotemporal and occipitotemporal regions. Persistently poor readers, who are both not fluent and less accurate, activate posterior reading systems but engage them differently from nonimpaired readers, appearing to rely more on memory-based rather than analytic word identification strategies.

Conclusions: These findings of divergent neural outcomes as young adults are both new and unexpected and suggest a neural basis for reading outcomes of compensation and persistence in adults with childhood dyslexia.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain / physiopathology*
  • Brain Mapping
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Dyslexia / physiopathology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Language Development Disorders / physiopathology
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Reading