"Our results strongly suggest that reading consists of unique capacities and is supported by distinct neural systems that are relatively independent of general cognitive abilities," said Gui Xue, corresponding author of the study. Xue was formerly a research assistant professor of USC, and now is a professor and director of the Center for Brain and Learning Sciences at Beijing Normal University.
"Although there is no doubt that reading has to build up existing neural systems due to the short history of written language in human evolution, years of reading experiences might have finely tuned the system to accommodate the specific requirement of a given written system," Xue said.
He and Xue collaborated with Chunhui Chen, and Qi Dong of Beijing Normal University; Chuansheng Chen, of the University of California, Irvine; and Zhong-Lin Lu of Ohio State University.
One of the outstanding features of this study is its unusually wide sample size. Typically, MRI studies test a relatively small sample of individuals perhaps around 20 to 30 because of the high cost of using the MRI machine. Testing a single individual can cost about $500, depending on the nature of the research.
The team had the good fortune of receiving access to Beijing Normal University's new MRI center BNU Imaging Center for Brain Research just before it opened to the public. With support from several grants, they were able to conduct MRI tests on 233 individuals.
Next, the group will explore how to combine data from other factors, such as white matter, resting and task functional MRI and more powerful machine learning techniques to improve the accuracy of individuals' reading abilities.
"Research along this line will enable the early diagnosis of reading di
|Contact: Robert Perkins|
University of Southern California