Growing evidence from multimodal brain imaging studies highlights the importance of a synergistic approach towards characterizing the neurobiological substrate of reading disability (RD). The overall goal of Project 4 (Imaging) is to develop a comprehensive model of brain network connectivity changes that relate to changes in academic skills. Academic skills interface with task control and attention brain networks in important but poorly understood ways. Project 4 will supplement the cognitive framework developed within Project 2 (Attention). In addition, we propose to evaluate features of brain organization associated with developmental outcomes of the educational interventions addressed in Project 3 (Intervention). Project 4 (Neuroimaging) will address three aims.
The first aim i s to characterize structural and functional brain connectivity related to change in academic skills and attention abilities, using a dimensional and multimodal imaging approach (Resting-state fMRI, quantitative structural MRI, and DTI). We will use multiple task localizers to generate regions to serve as nodes for network analyses at the individual and group levels and analyze network changes over 3 scans spanning the two years of middle school (beginning of 7th grade, end of 7th, end of 8th grade).
The second aim i s to test for brain network relationships that are impacted by bilingual language proficiency, and comorbid conditions (e.g. ADHD) within a group of English language learners who have persistent reading difficulties.
This aim models individual response to educational interventions (Project 3) as a function of aberrant features of brain organization and connectivity, and uses a rich contextual dataset (Project 2) to test for the impact of important interacting factors.
The third aim tests the predictive value of pre-intervention brain data for subsequent response to intervention. Addressing this aim entails training a multivariate pattern analysis model with cohort 1 data (years 1-3), and evaluating the results of that model with independent data from cohort 2 (years 3-5). We will test which type of brain data (e.g. DTI, cortical thickness, resting-state) best predicts future group membership (improver vs. non-improver). We predict that future academic gains will be stronger for those with stronger structural connectivity and tighter within-network correlations (better brain tuning). By successfully addressing these aims, Project 4 will promote novel directions in cognitive neuroscience research featuring longitudinal, multimodal imaging analysis of academic change, identifying features of brain organization that are crucial for typical development of academic skills and predicting successful intervention outcomes.

Public Health Relevance

Although much attention has been devoted to neural processes underlying single academic skills in isolation, less is known about how math, reading, and attention abilities interact in adolescence. Multimodal imaging promises a more comprehensive understanding of the brain networks associated with attention, instructional response, bilingual fluency, and important academic skills in typically developing and struggling readers.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development (NICHD)
Specialized Center (P50)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZHD1)
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University of Houston
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