The relationship between language-processing and visual-processing deficits in developmental dyslexia

L Cestnick, M Coltheart
Cognition 1999 July 30, 71 (3): 231-55
Some research on developmental dyslexia focuses on linguistic abnormalities such as poor reading of nonwords or poor reading of exception words. Other research focuses on visual abnormalities such as poor performance on psychophysical tasks believed to assess the functioning of the magnocellular and parvocellular layers of the lateral geniculate nucleus (LGN). Little is known about what the relationships are between these two types of abnormalities. We measured nonword reading, exception word reading, and performance with Ternus apparent movement displays (the perception of which is believed to depend upon the magnocellular and parvocellular pathways) in dyslexic children and children without reading difficulties. Our results indicate that performance on the Ternus task is related to nonword reading ability but not to exception word reading ability. We offer two alternative interpretations of these findings. According to the first of these, nonword reading requires a serial left-to-right allocation of covert attention across the letter string being read and the neural systems involved in this attentional process also play a part in responses to the Ternus display. According to the second, poor nonword reading and abnormal Ternus performance are not directly related: perinatal/neurodevelopmental insult has affected the LGN (influencing Ternus performance) and the adjacent medial geniculate nucleus (MGN; affecting phonological ability) and the MGN abnormalities may be more functionally related to poor nonword reading.

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