Neural correlates of cognitive control deficits in children with reading disorder

Brain Imaging Behav. 2020 Oct;14(5):1531-1542. doi: 10.1007/s11682-019-00083-x.


Reading disorder (RD) is characterized by deficient phonological processing, but children with RD also have cognitive control deficits, the neural correlates of which are not fully understood. We used fMRI to assess neural activity during the resolution of cognitive conflict on the Simon Spatial Incompatibility task and patterns of resting-state functional connectivity (RSFC) from task control (TC) regions in 7-12-year-old children with RD compared to their typically developing (TD) peers. Relative to TD children (n = 17), those with RD (n = 16) over-engaged a right superior/medial frontal cluster during the resolution of conflict (p = .05). Relative to TD children (n = 18), those with RD (n = 17) also showed reduced RSFC (voxel-wise p < .001; cluster-size p < .05, FDR corrected) from cingulo-opercular seeds to left hemisphere fronto-parietal and temporo-parietal reading-related regions, perhaps reflecting reduced organization of TC circuits and reduced integration with reading-related regions. Children with RD additionally showed reduced RSFC between fronto-parietal and default mode network regions. Follow-up analyses in a subset of children with both useable task and resting state data (RD = 13; TD = 17) revealed that greater conflict-related activation of the right frontal Simon task ROI associated with better word-reading, perhaps suggesting a compensatory role for this over-engagement. Connectivity from fronto-parietal seeds significantly associated with Simon task performance and word-reading accuracy in RD children. These findings suggest that altered functioning and connectivity of control circuits may contribute to cognitive control deficits in children with RD. Future studies should assess the utility of adding cognitive control training to reading remediation programs.

Keywords: Cognitive control; Conflict resolution; Dyslexia; Reading disorder; fMRI.

MeSH terms

  • Brain Mapping*
  • Child
  • Comprehension
  • Dyslexia* / diagnostic imaging
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Parietal Lobe