Connectivity precedes function in the development of the visual word form area

Nat Neurosci. 2016 Sep;19(9):1250-5. doi: 10.1038/nn.4354. Epub 2016 Aug 8.


What determines the cortical location at which a given functionally specific region will arise in development? We tested the hypothesis that functionally specific regions develop in their characteristic locations because of pre-existing differences in the extrinsic connectivity of that region to the rest of the brain. We exploited the visual word form area (VWFA) as a test case, scanning children with diffusion and functional imaging at age 5, before they learned to read, and at age 8, after they learned to read. We found the VWFA developed functionally in this interval and that its location in a particular child at age 8 could be predicted from that child's connectivity fingerprints (but not functional responses) at age 5. These results suggest that early connectivity instructs the functional development of the VWFA, possibly reflecting a general mechanism of cortical development.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Brain Mapping
  • Child
  • Female
  • Functional Laterality / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted / methods
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods
  • Male
  • Neural Pathways / physiology*
  • Reading*
  • Task Performance and Analysis
  • Temporal Lobe / physiology
  • Visual Perception*