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Sex-specific gray matter volume differences in females with developmental dyslexia

Abstract

Developmental dyslexia, characterized by unexpected reading difficulty, is associated with anomalous brain anatomy and function. Previous structural neuroimaging studies have converged in reports of less gray matter volume (GMV) in dyslexics within left hemisphere regions known to subserve language. Due to the higher prevalence of dyslexia in males, these studies are heavily weighted towards males, raising the question whether studies of dyslexia in females only and using the same techniques, would generate the same findings. In a replication study of men, we obtained the same findings of less GMV in dyslexics in left middle/inferior temporal gyri and right postcentral/supramarginal gyri as reported in the literature. However, comparisons in women with and without dyslexia did not yield left hemisphere differences, and instead, we found less GMV in right precuneus and paracentral lobule/medial frontal gyrus. In boys, we found less GMV in left inferior parietal cortex (supramarginal/angular gyri), again consistent with previous work, while in girls differences were within right central sulcus, spanning adjacent gyri, and left primary visual cortex. Our investigation into anatomical variants in dyslexia replicates existing studies in males, but at the same time shows that dyslexia in females is not characterized by involvement of left hemisphere language regions but rather early sensory and motor cortices (i.e., motor and premotor cortex, primary visual cortex). Our findings suggest that models on the brain basis of dyslexia, primarily developed through the study of males, may not be appropriate for females and suggest a need for more sex-specific investigations into dyslexia.

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Acknowledgments

This work has been supported by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (P50HD40095 and R01HD05610701), the National Science Foundation (SBE0541953 Science of Learning Center) and has been funded in part with Federal funds (UL1TR000101) from  the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS), National Institutes of Health, through the Clinical and Translational Science Awards Program (CTSA), a trademark of DHHS, part of the Roadmap Initiative, “Re-Engineering the Clinical Research Enterprise”. We thank Dr. Frank Wood at Wake Forest University for access to his study participants and the Jemicy School in Baltimore for facilitating participation of their students; we especially thank each of our participants for their time. We are grateful to the following for aiding in the acquisition of behavioral and MRI data: Megan Luetje, Emily Curran, Corinna Moore, Robert Twomey, Iain DeWitt, Allison Merikangas, Jenni Rosenberg, Ashley Wall Piche, Karen Jones, Kim Noble, Kate Cappell, John Agnew, Nicole Dietz, Martha Miranda, Gina Smith, Emma Cole, Debbie Hill and Lynn Gareau. We thank Anthony Krafnick for reviewing the manuscript and two anonymous reviewers for their comments.

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Correspondence to Guinevere F. Eden.

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Evans, T.M., Flowers, D.L., Napoliello, E.M. et al. Sex-specific gray matter volume differences in females with developmental dyslexia. Brain Struct Funct 219, 1041–1054 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00429-013-0552-4

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Keywords

  • Dyslexia
  • Sex differences
  • MRI
  • Anatomy
  • Morphometry