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Neurodevelopmental trajectories of letter and speech sound processing from preschool to the end of elementary school


Di Pietro, Sarah Valérie; Karipidis, Iliana I; Pleisch, Georgette; Brem, Silvia (2023). Neurodevelopmental trajectories of letter and speech sound processing from preschool to the end of elementary school. Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience, 61:101255.

Abstract

Learning to read alphabetic languages starts with learning letter-speech-sound associations. How this process changes brain function during development is still largely unknown. We followed 102 children with varying reading skills in a mixed-longitudinal/cross-sectional design from the prereading stage to the end of elementary school over five time points (n = 46 with two and more time points, of which n = 16 fully-longitudinal) to investigate the neural trajectories of letter and speech sound processing using fMRI. Children were presented with letters and speech sounds visually, auditorily, and audiovisually in kindergarten (6.7yo), at the middle (7.3yo) and end of first grade (7.6yo), and in second (8.4yo) and fifth grades (11.5yo). Activation of the ventral occipitotemporal cortex for visual and audiovisual processing followed a complex trajectory, with two peaks in first and fifth grades. The superior temporal gyrus (STG) showed an inverted U-shaped trajectory for audiovisual letter processing, a development that in poor readers was attenuated in middle STG and absent in posterior STG. Finally, the trajectories for letter-speech-sound integration were modulated by reading skills and showed differing directionality in the congruency effect depending on the time point. This unprecedented study captures the development of letter processing across elementary school and its neural trajectories in children with varying reading skills.

Abstract

Learning to read alphabetic languages starts with learning letter-speech-sound associations. How this process changes brain function during development is still largely unknown. We followed 102 children with varying reading skills in a mixed-longitudinal/cross-sectional design from the prereading stage to the end of elementary school over five time points (n = 46 with two and more time points, of which n = 16 fully-longitudinal) to investigate the neural trajectories of letter and speech sound processing using fMRI. Children were presented with letters and speech sounds visually, auditorily, and audiovisually in kindergarten (6.7yo), at the middle (7.3yo) and end of first grade (7.6yo), and in second (8.4yo) and fifth grades (11.5yo). Activation of the ventral occipitotemporal cortex for visual and audiovisual processing followed a complex trajectory, with two peaks in first and fifth grades. The superior temporal gyrus (STG) showed an inverted U-shaped trajectory for audiovisual letter processing, a development that in poor readers was attenuated in middle STG and absent in posterior STG. Finally, the trajectories for letter-speech-sound integration were modulated by reading skills and showed differing directionality in the congruency effect depending on the time point. This unprecedented study captures the development of letter processing across elementary school and its neural trajectories in children with varying reading skills.

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Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:04 Faculty of Medicine > Psychiatric University Hospital Zurich > Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
04 Faculty of Medicine > Neuroscience Center Zurich
08 Research Priority Programs > Adaptive Brain Circuits in Development and Learning (AdaBD)
Dewey Decimal Classification:610 Medicine & health
Scopus Subject Areas:Life Sciences > Cognitive Neuroscience
Uncontrolled Keywords:Audiovisual integration; FMRI; Superior temporal gyrus; Visual word form area
Language:English
Date:1 June 2023
Deposited On:23 Jan 2024 09:18
Last Modified:30 Apr 2024 01:48
Publisher:Elsevier
ISSN:1878-9293
OA Status:Gold
Free access at:Publisher DOI. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.dcn.2023.101255
PubMed ID:37196374
Project Information:
  • : FunderHartmann Müller-Stiftung für Medizinische Forschung
  • : Grant ID
  • : Project Title
  • : FunderFP7
  • : Grant ID260661
  • : Project TitlePHOTOBIOFUEL - Direct photobiological conversion of solar energy to volatile transport fuels
  • : FunderOlga Mayenfisch Stiftung
  • : Grant ID
  • : Project Title
  • : FunderUniversität Zürich
  • : Grant ID
  • : Project Title
  • Content: Published Version
  • Language: English
  • Licence: Creative Commons: Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)