Spatial Network Connectivity and Spatial Reasoning Ability in Children with Nonverbal Learning Disability

Sci Rep. 2020 Jan 17;10(1):561. doi: 10.1038/s41598-019-56003-y.


Nonverbal Learning Disability (NVLD) is characterized by deficits in visual-spatial, but not verbal, reasoning. Nevertheless, the functioning of the neural circuits supporting spatial processing have yet to be assessed in children with NVLD. We compared the resting state functional connectivity of a spatial brain network among children with NVLD, children with reading disorder (RD), and typically developing (TD) children. Seventy-five participants (7-15 years old) were included in the study (20 TD, 24 NVLD, and 31 RD). Group differences in global efficiency and functional connectivity among 12 regions comprising a previously defined spatial network were evaluated. Associations with behavior were explored. Global efficiency of the spatial network associated positively with spatial ability and inversely with socioemotional problems. Within the spatial network, associations between left posterior cingulate (PCC) and right retrosplenial cortical activity were reduced in children with NVLD relative to those without spatial deficits (RD and TD). Connectivity between left PCC and right posterior cerebellum (Crus I and II) was reduced in both groups of children with learning disabilities (NVLD and RD) relative to TD children. Functional connectivity of the spatial network was atypically associated with cognitive and socioemotional performance in children with NVLD. Identifying a neurobiological substrate for NVLD provides evidence that it is a discrete clinical entity and suggests targets for treatment.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Brain / diagnostic imaging*
  • Brain / physiopathology
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Child
  • Dyslexia / diagnostic imaging*
  • Dyslexia / physiopathology
  • Female
  • Gyrus Cinguli / diagnostic imaging
  • Gyrus Cinguli / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Learning Disabilities / diagnostic imaging
  • Learning Disabilities / physiopathology
  • Learning Disabilities / psychology*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Rest / physiology
  • Rest / psychology
  • Spatial Navigation / physiology*
  • Spatial Processing