Atypical Hemispheric Re-Organization of the Reading Network in High-Functioning Adults with Dyslexia: Evidence from Representational Similarity Analysis


  • Cavalli Eddy
  • Chanoine Valérie
  • Tan Yufei
  • Anton Jean-Luc
  • Giordano Bruno L
  • Pegado Felipe
  • Ziegler Johannes C


  • High-functioning adults with dyslexia
  • Representational similarity analysis RSA
  • Semantic similarity
  • Orthographic similarity
  • FMRI

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Abstract It has been argued that university students with dyslexia compensate for their reading deficits by a neural re-organization of the typical reading network, where the lexical representations of words are (re-)structured according to semantic rather than orthographic information. To investigate the re-organization of neural word representations more directly, we used multivariate representational similarity analyses (RSA) to find out which brain regions of the reading network respond to orthographic and semantic similarity between 544 pairs of words and whether there were any differences between typical and dyslexic readers. In accordance with the re-organization hypothesis, we predicted greater similarity (i.e., correlation of neural dissimilarity matrices) in adult dyslexic than in typical readers in regions associated with semantic processing and weaker similarity in regions associated with orthographic processing. Our results did not confirm these predictions. First, we found sensitivity to semantic similarity in all three subparts of the fusiform gyrus (FG1, FG2, FG3) bilaterally. Adults with dyslexia showed less (rather than more) sensitivity to semantic similarity in the posterior subpart of fusiform gyrus (FG1) in the left hemisphere. Second, in typical readers, sensitivity to orthographic information was not only found in the left fusiform gyrus (FG1, FG2, FG3) but also in left IFG. Adults with dyslexia, in contrast, did not show sensitivity to orthographic information in left IFG. However, they showed increased sensitivity to orthographic information in the right hemisphere FG1. Together, the results show abnormal orthographic processing in left IFG and right FG1 and reduced semantic information in left FG1. While we found evidence for compensatory re-organization in adult dyslexia, the present results do not support the hypothesis according to which adults with dyslexia rely more heavily on semantic information. Instead, they revealed atypical hemispheric organization of the reading network that is not restricted to the typical left language hemisphere.

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