Aberrant Prestimulus Oscillations in Developmental Dyslexia Support an Underlying Attention Shifting Deficit

Cereb Cortex Commun. 2020 Mar 23;1(1):tgaa006. doi: 10.1093/texcom/tgaa006. eCollection 2020.


Developmental dyslexia (DD) impairs reading and writing acquisition in 5-10% of children, compromising schooling, academic success, and everyday adult life. DD associates with reduced phonological skills, evident from a reduced auditory mismatch negativity (MMN) in the electroencephalogram (EEG). It was argued that such phonological deficits are secondary to an underlying deficit in the shifting of attention to upcoming speech sounds. Here, we tested whether the aberrant MMN in individuals with DD is a function of EEG correlates of prestimulus attention shifting; based on prior findings, we focused prestimulus analyses on alpha-band oscillations. We administered an audio-visual oddball paradigm to school children with and without DD. Children with DD showed EEG markers of deficient attention switching (i.e., increased prestimulus alpha-band intertrial phase coherence [ITPC]) to precede and predict their reduced MMN-aberrantly increased ITPC predicted an aberrantly reduced MMN. In interaction, ITPC and MMN predicted reading abilities, such that poor readers showed both high ITPC and a reduced MMN, the reverse being true in good readers. Prestimulus ITPC may be an overlooked biomarker of deficient attention shifting in DD. The findings support the proposal that an attention shifting deficit underlies phonological deficits in DD, entailing new opportunities for targeted intervention.

Keywords: alpha band; dyslexia; mismatch negativity; neural oscillations; prestimulus activity.