Language-general and -specific white matter microstructural bases for reading

Mingxia Zhang, Chuansheng Chen, Gui Xue, Zhong-Lin Lu, Leilei Mei, Hongli Xue, Miao Wei, Qinghua He, Jin Li, Qi Dong
NeuroImage 2014, 98: 435-41
In the past decade, several studies have investigated language-general and -specific brain regions for reading. However, very limited research has examined the white matter that connects these cortical regions. By using diffusion tensor imaging (DTI), the current study investigated the common and divergent relationship between white matter integrity indexed by fractional anisotropy (FA) and native language reading abilities in 89 Chinese and 93 English speakers. Conjunction analysis revealed that for both groups, reading ability was associated with the FA of seven white matter fiber bundles in two main anatomical locations in the left hemisphere: the dorsal corona radiate/corpus callosum/superior longitudinal fasciculus which might be for phonological access, and the ventral uncinate fasciculus/external capsule/inferior fronto-occipital fasciculus which might be for semantic processing. Contrast analysis showed that the FA of the left temporal part of superior longitudinal fasciculus contributed more to reading in English than in Chinese, which is consistent with the notion that this tract is involved in grapheme-to-phoneme conversion for alphabetic language reading. These results are the first evidence of language-general and -specific white matter microstructural bases for reading.

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