Learning About the Developing Brain in the Eyes of the MR Scanner: Functional and Structural Connectivity in Young Children

Tzipi Horowitz-Kraus
Technion, Israel

Approximately 15% of children in the western world have reading disabilities, a neurodevelopmental disorder known to impact academic achievements as well as social and emotional wellbeing. Identification of the underlying factors contributing to RD is crucial for proper classification and planning of remedial interventions. Current strategies rely exclusively on behavioral measures and are of limited precision. Here, we aimed to study the role of cognitive control in reading among children from birth to age 12 years using a multimodal approach utilizing several MRI methodologies as well as EEG data. Results provided potential biomarkers for reading difficulties in children: EEG data suggested decreased event related potentials evoked from the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) and functional MRI data showed decreased functional connectivity of cognitive control networks. Using MRI, we then demonstrated the effect of an executive-function based intervention on these functional connections during both reading and resting-state conditions. Greater attention- and inhibition-related ERPs were observed following training. The advantages of using neuroimaging methods in evaluation of neurodevelopmental disorders in children and the challenges the field of developmental neuroimaging is facing will be discussed.

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