Maternal reading fluency is associated with functional connectivity between the child's future reading network and regions related to executive functions and language processing in preschool-age children

Brain Cogn. 2019 Apr;131:87-93. doi: 10.1016/j.bandc.2018.11.010. Epub 2018 Dec 13.


Reading is an acquired skill that relies on cognitive-control and language abilities. Home reading environment has been positively correlated with activation in parietal-temporal-occipital association cortex supporting mental imagery and narrative comprehension during a story-listening task in preschool-age children. However, the degree to which maternal reading ability influences early brain development, specifically neural circuits involved with language and reading, is not well understood. The current study explored the relationship between maternal reading ability and functional connectivity within the language network, between the language network and networks related to cognitive control and visual processing, as well as between the language network and the entire brain (network-to-voxel analysis) of preschool-age children during a resting state. Thirteen 4-year-old girls and their mothers participated in this study, involving cognitive testing and functional magnetic resonance imaging, including a resting-state scan. Maternal reading ability was negatively correlated with functional connectivity within the child's language network at rest, and also with areas involved in visual processing, cognitive-control, and semantics. These results suggest that children whose mothers exhibit decreased reading ability may demonstrate a greater engagement of the language network and neural circuits related to visual word recognition, cognitive-control, and semantic processing, which later in life support reading.

Keywords: Cognitive; Functional MRI; Maternal reading ability; Preschool children; Resting state.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain / diagnostic imaging*
  • Brain / physiology
  • Brain Mapping / methods
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cognition / physiology
  • Comprehension / physiology*
  • Executive Function / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Language*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Mothers
  • Nerve Net / diagnostic imaging*
  • Nerve Net / physiopathology
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Reading*
  • Young Adult