Temporo-parietal connectivity uniquely predicts reading change from childhood to adolescence
Previous research has shown that left posterior middle temporal gyrus (pMTG) is a core node in the semantic network, and cross-sectional studies have shown that activation in this region changes developmentally and is related to skill measured concurrently. However, it is not known how functional connectivity with this region changes developmentally, and whether functional connectivity is related to future gains in reading. We conducted a longitudinal functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) study in 30 typically developing children (aged 8-15) to examine whether initial brain measures, including activation and connectivity, can predict future behavioral improvement in a semantic judgment task. Participants were scanned on entering the study (time 1, T1) and a follow-up period of 2years (time 2, T2). Character pairs were arranged in a continuous variable according to association strength (i.e. strong versus weak), and participants were asked to determine if these visually presented pairs were related in meaning. Our results demonstrated greater developmental changes from time 1 to time 2 for weaker association pairs in the left pMTG for the children (aged 8-11) as compared to the adolescents (aged 12-15). Moreover, the results showed greater developmental changes from time 1 to time 2 for weaker association pairs in connectivity between the pMTG and inferior parietal lobule (IPL) for the children as compared to the adolescents. Furthermore, a hierarchical stepwise regression model revealed that connectivity between the pMTG and IPL in weak association pairs was uniquely predictive of behavioral improvement from time 1 to time 2 for the children, but not the adolescents. Taken together, the activation results suggest relatively rapid development before adolescence of semantic representations in the pMTG. Moreover, the connectivity results of pMTG with IPL tentatively suggest that early development of semantic representations may be facilitated by enhanced engagement of phonological short-term memory.