The ability to decode letters into language sounds is essential for reading success, and accurate identification of children at high risk for decoding impairment is critical for reducing the frequency and severity of reading impairment. We examined the utility of behavioral (standardized tests), and functional and structural neuroimaging measures taken with children at the beginning of a school year for predicting their decoding ability at the end of that school year. Specific patterns of brain activation during phonological processing and morphology, as revealed by voxel-based morphometry (VBM) of gray and white matter densities, predicted later decoding ability. Further, a model combining behavioral and neuroimaging measures predicted decoding outcome significantly better than either behavioral or neuroimaging models alone. Results were validated using cross-validation methods. These findings suggest that neuroimaging methods may be useful in enhancing the early identification of children at risk for poor decoding and reading skills.
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