Inverted EEG theta lateralization in dyslexic children during phonological processing

C Spironelli, B Penolazzi, C Vio, A Angrilli
Neuropsychologia 2006, 44 (14): 2814-21
The phonological deficit hypothesis of dyslexia has been investigated in the present research by analysing language-related lateralization of the EEG theta band in a sample of dyslexic children. To this aim, a paradigm based on word-pair visual presentation was used in which the same words were processed in Semantic and Phonological tasks. Theta band amplitude, a cortical index that has been related to working memory processing, was analysed during four different phases of word elaboration, thus allowing to measure also the temporal dynamics of word reading/encoding in the verbal working memory. Control subjects showed a specific (and therefore efficient) task-related and time-dependent cortical activation: a peak of theta activity during word reading was found that decayed during the next inter stimulus interval. Furthermore, during word presentation in the Phonological task, theta amplitude was greater on the left hemisphere. Dyslexics evidenced an altered pattern of theta activation both in the temporal dimension and in the cortical space: their peak of activity was delayed to the first inter stimulus interval after word offset and was shifted to the right hemisphere throughout the whole epoch of Phonological task and in two phases of the Semantic task. Analysis of alpha band failed to replicate the complex pattern of lateralization found for theta band in the two groups, a result that suggests a specific functional role of theta band, which cannot be interpreted as a simple marker of cortical inhibition. Results point to a deficit, in dyslexic children, to recruit left hemisphere structures for the elaboration of the phonological component of the verbal working memory. This deficit was marked by a different, unspecific and dysfunctional hemispherical asymmetry of theta activation to language, a deficit that involved also the time course of phonological linguistic elaboration.

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