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A sculpting effect of reading on later representational quality of phonology revealed by multi-voxel pattern analysis in young children


Wang JJin , Tong FFrank , Joanisse MFMarc F , Booth JRJames R . Brain and language. 2023 03 17; 239(). 105252


Using univariate analysis, a previous study by Wang et al. (2020) found a scaffolding effect of earlier phonological representation in superior temporal gyrus (STG) on later reading skill but failed to observe a sculpting effect of earlier reading on later phonological representation. The current study applied multi-voxel pattern analysis (MVPA) to examine if both scaffolding and sculpting effects were present in young children. We found that better initial reading skill predicted higher decoding coefficient of brain activity patterns for phonological representations in STG. This sculpting effect was present only for decoding small grain sizes (phonemes) and in younger children (6- to 7.5-year-olds), as we did not find any effects for large grain sizes (rhymes) or older children (7.5- to 9.5-year-olds). Although a scaffolding effect was not observed, the current study provides the first neural evidence of how earlier reading sculpts later phonological awareness in beginning readers.