, Volume 24, Issue 5, pp 493-516
Date: 31 Oct 2009

Differences between good and poor child writers on fMRI contrasts for writing newly taught and highly practiced letter forms

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Abstract

During fMRI imaging, 12 good and 8 poor writers aged 11 wrote a newly taught pseudoletter and a highly practiced letter. Both letters were formed from the same components, but the pseudoletter had a novel configuration not corresponding to a written English letter form. On the first fMRI contrast between the newly taught pseudoletter and highly practiced letter, based on a group map, good and poor writers significantly activated many common regions; but the poor writers showed spatially more extensive brain activation than did the good writers. The additional regions of significant activation may reflect inefficiency in learning a new letter form. For the second contrast between the highly practiced and newly taught letters, individual brain activation analyses, based on exact clusters, showed that good and poor writers differed significantly in activation only in left fusiform. This individual fusiform activation correlated significantly with behavioral measures of automatic letter writing and expressive orthographic coding. Multiple regression in which both individual fusiform activation and individual orthographic coding were entered explained significant variance in written composition. Results are discussed in reference to the role of the orthographic loop, from internal letter form to external letter writing by hand, in writing letters and composing. The overall results are consistent with prior brain and behavioral studies of writing.