During information processing, individuals benefit from bimodally presented input, as has been demonstrated for speech perception (i.e., printed letters and speech sounds) or the perception of emotional expressions (i.e., facial expression and voice tuning). While typically developing individuals show this bimodal benefit, school children with dyslexia do not. Currently, it is unknown whether the bimodal processing deficit in dyslexia also occurs for visual-auditory speech processing that is independent of reading and spelling acquisition (i.e., no letter-sound knowledge is required). Here, we tested school children with and without spelling problems on their bimodal perception of video-recorded mouth movements pronouncing syllables. We analyzed the event-related potential Mismatch Response (MMR) to visual-auditory speech information and compared this response to the MMR to monomodal speech information (i.e., auditory-only, visual-only). We found a reduced MMR with later onset to visual-auditory speech information in children with spelling problems compared to children without spelling problems. Moreover, when comparing bimodal and monomodal speech perception, we found that children without spelling problems showed significantly larger responses in the visual-auditory experiment compared to the visual-only response, whereas children with spelling problems did not. Our results suggest that children with dyslexia exhibit general difficulties in bimodal speech perception independently of letter-speech sound knowledge, as apparent in altered bimodal speech perception and lacking benefit from bimodal information. This general deficit in children with dyslexia may underlie the previously reported reduced bimodal benefit for letter-speech sound combinations and similar findings in emotion perception.
Keywords: German language; School children; Spelling abilities; Visual-auditory Mismatch Response; Visual-auditory speech perception.
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