Altered neural circuits accompany lower performance during narrative comprehension in children with reading difficulties: an fMRI study

Tzipi Horowitz-Kraus, Catherine Buck, Dana Dorrmann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Narrative comprehension is a linguistic ability that is foundational for future reading ability. The aim of the current study was to examine the neural circuitry of children with reading difficulties (RD) compared to typical readers during a narrative-comprehension task. We hypothesized that due to deficient executive functions, which support narrative comprehension abilities, children with RD would display altered activation and functional connectivity, as well as lower performance on a narrative-comprehension task. Children with RD and typical readers were scanned during a narrative-comprehension task and administered reading behavioral tests. Children with RD scored significantly lower on the narrative-comprehension task than did typical readers. Composite activation maps showed more diffused activation during narrative comprehension in the RD group. Maps comparing the two reading groups showed more activation in the frontal lobes (regions responsible for executive functions), and functional connectivity showed higher global efficiency in children with RD than in typical readers. Global efficiency was negatively correlated with phonological awareness and reading and executive function scores in the entire study group. Children with RD may suffer from narrative-comprehension difficulties due to diffused activation of language areas, as was observed during a narrative-comprehension task. Greater effort in this task may be reflected by the engagement of brain regions related to executive functions and higher functional connectivity or attributed to difficulties in phonological processing and reading and executive functions. Therefore, the accommodation given to children with RD of reading aloud may need to be revised due to the observed difficulty in this domain.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)301-318
Number of pages18
JournalAnnals of Dyslexia
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Oct 2016


  • Functional MRI
  • Narrative comprehension
  • Reading
  • Reading difficulties

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Education
  • Speech and Hearing


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