Putative protective neural mechanisms in prereaders with a family history of dyslexia who subsequently develop typical reading skills

Xi Yu*, Jennifer Zuk, Meaghan V. Perdue, Ola Ozernov-Palchik, Talia Raney, Sara D. Beach, Elizabeth S. Norton, Yangming Ou, John D.E. Gabrieli, Nadine Gaab

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Developmental dyslexia affects 40–60% of children with a familial risk (FHD+) compared to a general prevalence of 5–10%. Despite the increased risk, about half of FHD+ children develop typical reading abilities (FHD+Typical). Yet the underlying neural characteristics of favorable reading outcomes in at-risk children remain unknown. Utilizing a retrospective, longitudinal approach, this study examined whether putative protective neural mechanisms can be observed in FHD+Typical at the prereading stage. Functional and structural brain characteristics were examined in 47 FHD+ prereaders who subsequently developed typical (n = 35) or impaired (n = 12) reading abilities and 34 controls (FHD−Typical). Searchlight-based multivariate pattern analyses identified distinct activation patterns during phonological processing between FHD+Typical and FHD−Typical in right inferior frontal gyrus (RIFG) and left temporo-parietal cortex (LTPC) regions. Follow-up analyses on group-specific classification patterns demonstrated LTPC hypoactivation in FHD+Typical compared to FHD−Typical, suggesting this neural characteristic as an FHD+ phenotype. In contrast, RIFG showed hyperactivation in FHD+Typical than FHD−Typical, and its activation pattern was positively correlated with subsequent reading abilities in FHD+ but not controls (FHD−Typical). RIFG hyperactivation in FHD+Typical was further associated with increased interhemispheric functional and structural connectivity. These results suggest that some protective neural mechanisms are already established in FHD+Typical prereaders supporting their typical reading development.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2827-2845
Number of pages19
JournalHuman Brain Mapping
Issue number10
StatePublished - Jul 1 2020


  • DTI
  • children
  • developmental dyslexia
  • functional MRI
  • pediatric neuroimaging

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Neurology
  • Radiological and Ultrasound Technology
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Anatomy


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