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See detailLeft cortical specialization for visual letter strings predicts rudimentary knowledge of letter-sound association in preschoolers.
Lochy, Aliette UL; Van Reybroeck, Marie; Rossion, Bruno

in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (2016), 113(30), 8544-9

Reading, one of the most important cultural inventions of human society, critically depends on posterior brain areas of the left hemisphere in proficient adult readers. In children, this left hemispheric ... [more ▼]

Reading, one of the most important cultural inventions of human society, critically depends on posterior brain areas of the left hemisphere in proficient adult readers. In children, this left hemispheric cortical specialization for letter strings is typically detected only after approximately 1 y of formal schooling and reading acquisition. Here, we recorded scalp electrophysiological (EEG) brain responses in 5-y-old (n = 40) prereaders presented with letter strings appearing every five items in rapid streams of pseudofonts (6 items per second). Within 2 min of recording only, letter strings evoked a robust specific response over the left occipito-temporal cortex at the predefined frequency of 1.2 Hz (i.e., 6 Hz/5). Interindividual differences in the amplitude of this electrophysiological response are significantly related to letter knowledge, a preschool predictor of later reading ability. These results point to the high potential of this rapidly collected behavior-free measure to assess reading ability in developmental populations. These findings were replicated in a second experiment (n = 26 preschool children), where familiar symbols and line drawings of objects evoked right-lateralized and bilaterally specific responses, respectively, showing the specificity of the early left hemispheric dominance for letter strings. Collectively, these findings indicate that limited knowledge of print in young children, before formal education, is sufficient to develop specialized left lateralized neuronal circuits, thereby pointing to an early onset and rapid impact of left hemispheric reentrant sound mapping on posterior cortical development. [less ▲]

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