Microstructural properties of white matter pathways in relation to subsequent reading abilities in children: a longitudinal analysis
Microstructural properties of white matter pathways are associated with concurrent reading abilities in children. In this longitudinal study, we asked whether properties of white matter pathways at the onset of learning to read would be associated with reading abilities at older ages. Children (N = 37) with a wide range of reading abilities completed standardized measures of language and phonological awareness and diffusion MRI at age 6 years. Mean tract-fractional anisotropy (FA) was extracted from reading-related pathways. At age 8, the same children were re-assessed using a standardized reading measure. Using linear regressions, we examined the contribution of tract-FA at age 6 to reading outcome at age 8, beyond known demographic and pre-literacy predictors of reading. Tract-FA of the left arcuate, left and right superior longitudinal fasciculus (SLF), and left inferior cerebellar peduncle (ICP) made unique contributions to reading outcome after consideration of sex and family history of reading delays. Tract-FA of the left and right SLF and left ICP made unique contributions to reading outcome after the addition of pre-literacy skills. Thus, cerebellar and bilateral cortical pathways represented a network associated with subsequent reading abilities. Early white matter properties may be associated with other neuropsychological functions that predict reading or may influence reading development, independent of reading-related abilities. Tract FA at early stages of learning to read may serve as a biomarker of later reading abilities.
KeywordsDiffusion MRI Longitudinal study Reading development Tractography
We would like the thank the children and families who participated in this longitudinal project. We would also like to thank Ms. Vanessa N. Kovachy for initial recruitment and data collection.
This work was supported by Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development of the National Institutes of Health (RO1 HD069162) and the Stanford Transdisciplinary Initiatives Program, Child Health Research Institute.
Compliance with ethical standards
Research involving human participants
All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
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