Skip to main content

Differences between child and adult large-scale functional brain networks for reading tasks


Liu XXin , Gao YYue , Di QQiqi , Hu JJiali , Lu CChunming , Nan YYun , Booth JRJames R , Liu LLi . Human brain mapping. 2017 11 09; 39(2). 662-679


Reading is an important high-level cognitive function of the human brain, requiring interaction among multiple brain regions. Revealing differences between children’s large-scale functional brain networks for reading tasks and those of adults helps us to understand how the functional network changes over reading development. Here we used functional magnetic resonance imaging data of 17 adults (19-28 years old) and 16 children (11-13 years old), and graph theoretical analyses to investigate age-related changes in large-scale functional networks during rhyming and meaning judgment tasks on pairs of visually presented Chinese characters. We found that: (1) adults had stronger inter-regional connectivity and nodal degree in occipital regions, while children had stronger inter-regional connectivity in temporal regions, suggesting that adults rely more on visual orthographic processing whereas children rely more on auditory phonological processing during reading. (2) Only adults showed between-task differences in inter-regional connectivity and nodal degree, whereas children showed no task differences, suggesting the topological organization of adults’ reading network is more specialized. (3) Children showed greater inter-regional connectivity and nodal degree than adults in multiple subcortical regions; the hubs in children were more distributed in subcortical regions while the hubs in adults were more distributed in cortical regions. These findings suggest that reading development is manifested by a shift from reliance on subcortical to cortical regions. Taken together, our study suggests that Chinese reading development is supported by developmental changes in brain connectivity properties, and some of these changes may be domain-general while others may be specific to the reading domain.