Alina Benischek, Xiangyu Long, Christiane S. Rohr, Signe Bray, Deborah Dewey, Catherine Lebel Pre-reading language abilities and the brain’s functional reading network in young children

Learning language in early childhood is important for later development of reading. Understanding how the brain supports language learning in young children can help us know how to help kids who struggle with reading. Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) allows us to see how strongly different brain areas and networks are connected to each other. We measured fMRI and language scores in healthy children 3-5 years old. Children with better language ability had stronger connections in the reading network, as well as between reading areas and other brain areas that may help language. Kids with better language abilities also showed weaker connections between the reading network and other major brain networks that have other functions. These findings are important because they show differences in brain function are related to language skills before kids learn to read. This work will motivate future studies that look for brain markers of poor reading at early ages, so that we can help kids who struggle to read early.

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