, Volume 15, Issue 1-2, pp 179-206

Timing precision and rhythm in developmental dyslexia

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Abstract

Current research on the etiology ofdevelopmental dyslexia is generally informed byeither of two major hypotheses. One of theseassumes that the phonological processing ofconsonants and vowels at a segmental levelidentifies the core deficit in developmentaldyslexia and that it cannot be reduced todomain-general deficits of temporal informationprocessing. The other hypothesis holds thatphonological processing deficits aresymptomatic of an underlying, domain-generaldysfunction; and that at least some dyslexiasubtypes are causally related to domain generaldeficits of temporal information processing forauditory and visual stimuli. This report startsfrom the assumption that the terms temporal information processing andphonological processing as applied in currentdyslexia research, are frequently conflated. Further, it assumes that the conflated termsmust be decomposed into their concretebehavioral referents before the causalsignificance of either can be investigatedsystematically.

The studies to be summarized in thisreport represents one step toward suchdecomposition. The findings indicated thatduring a motor sequencing task, dyslexicstudents anticipated the signal of anisochronic pacing metronome by intervals thatwere two or three times as long as those ofage matched normal readers or normal adults.These group differences were significant whenparticipants tapped with the preferred indexfinger alone or with both fingers in unison.Dyslexic students also took significantlylonger than normal readers did to recalibratetheir tapping responses when the metronome ratewas experimentally changed in the middle of atrial.

In addition, dyslexic students, bycontrast to normal readers, had inordinatedifficulty reproducing simple motor rhythms byfinger tapping, and similar difficultyreproducing the appropriate speech rhythm oflinguistically neutral nonsense syllables.These difficulties were exaggerated whenparticipants had to synchronize theirperformance to an external pacing metronome.The implications of the findings for temporalinformation processing deficits on one hand,and impaired phonological processing on theother, are discussed.