Brain tissue connectivity drives kids' reading skills

August 1, 2006

Recent studies have shown a significant correlation between white matter anisotropy and reading ability in adults and children 11 years old and older.

Recent studies have shown a significant correlation between white matter anisotropy and reading ability in adults and children 11 years old and older. New diffusion tensor MRI data by Canadian researchers provide evidence this relationship can be found much earlier in life.

Principal investigator Christian Beaulieu, Ph.D., an assistant professor of biomedical engineering at the University of Alberta, and colleagues assessed 47 healthy children ages five to 10. They split them, based on education level, into two groups: kindergarten to first grade and second to fourth grade. Children underwent DTI on a 1.5T scanner as well as a comprehensive cognitive assessment including reading skills and nonverbal intelligence.

The investigators found significant positive correlations between reading ability and left hemisphere fractional anisotropy, validating earlier findings on older subjects. The younger age group showed significant correlations between reading skills and left and right brain hemispheres. Researchers presented their findings at the 2006 ISMRM meeting.