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Differential effects of orthographic and phonological consistency in cortex for children with and without reading impairment


Bolger DJDonald J , Minas JJennifer , Burman DDDouglas D , Booth JRJames R . Neuropsychologia. 2008 ; 46(14). 3210-24


One of the central challenges in mastering English is becoming sensitive to consistency from spelling to sound (i.e. phonological consistency) and from sound to spelling (i.e. orthographic consistency). Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), we examined the neural correlates of consistency in 9-15-year-old Normal and Impaired Readers during a rhyming task in the visual modality. In line with our previous study [Bolger, D.J., Hornickel, J., Cone, N. E., Burman, D. D., & Booth,J. R. (in press). Neural correlates of orthographic and phonological consistency effects in children. Human Brain Mapping], for Normal Readers, lower phonological and orthographic consistency were associated with greater activation in several regions including bilateral inferior/middle frontal gyri, bilateral anterior cingulate cortex as well as left fusiform gyrus. Impaired Readers activated only bilateral anterior cingulate cortex in response to decreasing consistency. Group comparisons revealed that, relative to Impaired Readers, Normal Readers exhibited a larger response in this network for lower phonological consistency whereas orthographic consistency differences were limited. Lastly, brain-behavior correlations revealed a significant relationship between skill (i.e. Phonological Awareness and non-word decoding) and cortical consistency effects for Impaired Readers in left inferior/middle frontal gyri and left fusiform gyrus. Impaired Readers with higher skill showed greater activation for higher consistency. This relationship was reliably different from that of Normal Readers in which higher skill was associated with greater activation for lower consistency. According to single-route or connectionist models, these results suggest that Impaired Readers with higher skill devote neural resources to representing the mapping between orthography and phonology for higher consistency words, and therefore do not robustly activate this network for lower consistency words.