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1.  The phonological and visual basis of developmental dyslexia in Brazilian Portuguese reading children 
Frontiers in Psychology  2014;5:1169.
Evidence from opaque languages suggests that visual attention processing abilities in addition to phonological skills may act as cognitive underpinnings of developmental dyslexia. We explored the role of these two cognitive abilities on reading fluency in Brazilian Portuguese, a more transparent orthography than French or English. Sixty-six children with developmental dyslexia and normal Brazilian Portuguese children participated. They were administered three tasks of phonological skills (phoneme identification, phoneme, and syllable blending) and three visual tasks (a letter global report task and two non-verbal tasks of visual closure and visual constancy). Results show that Brazilian Portuguese children with developmental dyslexia are impaired not only in phonological processing but further in visual processing. The phonological and visual processing abilities significantly and independently contribute to reading fluency in the whole population. Last, different cognitively homogeneous subtypes can be identified in the Brazilian Portuguese population of children with developmental dyslexia. Two subsets of children with developmental dyslexia were identified as having a single cognitive disorder, phonological or visual; another group exhibited a double deficit and a few children showed no visual or phonological disorder. Thus the current findings extend previous data from more opaque orthographies as French and English, in showing the importance of investigating visual processing skills in addition to phonological skills in children with developmental dyslexia whatever their language orthography transparency.
PMCID: PMC4196516  PMID: 25352822
developmental dyslexia; phonological processing; visual processing; subtypes; visual attention span
2.  New Insights on Developmental Dyslexia Subtypes: Heterogeneity of Mixed Reading Profiles 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(6):e99337.
We examined whether classifications based on reading performance are relevant to identify cognitively homogeneous subgroups of dyslexic children. Each of the 71 dyslexic participants was selected to have a mixed reading profile, i.e. poor irregular word and pseudo-word reading performance (accuracy and speed). Despite their homogeneous reading profile, the participants were found to split into four distinct cognitive subgroups, characterized by a single phonological disorder, a single visual attention span disorder, a double deficit or none of these disorders. The two subgroups characterized by single and contrasted cognitive disorders were found to exhibit a very similar reading pattern but more contrasted spelling performance (quantitative analysis). A qualitative analysis of the error types produced in reading and spelling provided some cues about the participants' underlying cognitive deficit. The overall findings disqualify subtyping based on reading profiles as a classification method to identify cognitively homogeneous subgroups of dyslexic children. They rather show an opaque relationship between the cognitive underpinnings of developmental dyslexia and their behavioral manifestations in reading and spelling. Future neuroimaging and genetic studies should take this issue into account since synthesizing over cognitively heterogeneous children would entail potential pitfalls.
PMCID: PMC4053380  PMID: 24918441
3.  Veridical mapping in savant abilities, absolute pitch, and synesthesia: an autism case study 
An enhanced role and autonomy of perception are prominent in autism. Furthermore, savant abilities, absolute pitch, and synesthesia are all more commonly found in autistic individuals than in the typical population. The mechanism of veridical mapping has been proposed to account for how enhanced perception in autism leads to the high prevalence of these three phenomena and their structural similarity. Veridical mapping entails functional rededication of perceptual brain regions to higher order cognitive operations, allowing the enhanced detection and memorization of isomorphisms between perceptual and non-perceptual structures across multiple scales. In this paper, we present FC, an autistic individual who possesses several savant abilities in addition to both absolute pitch and synesthesia-like associations. The co-occurrence in FC of abilities, some of them rare, which share the same structure, as well as FC’s own accounts of their development, together suggest the importance of veridical mapping in the atypical range and nature of abilities displayed by autistic people.
PMCID: PMC3927080  PMID: 24600416
autism; synesthesia; savant abilities; cognition; veridical mapping
4.  Lexical orthography acquisition: Is handwriting better than spelling aloud? 
Lexical orthography acquisition is currently described as the building of links between the visual forms and the auditory forms of whole words. However, a growing body of data suggests that a motor component could further be involved in orthographic acquisition. A few studies support the idea that reading plus handwriting is a better lexical orthographic learning situation than reading alone. However, these studies did not explore which of the cognitive processes involved in handwriting enhanced lexical orthographic acquisition. Some findings suggest that the specific movements memorized when learning to write may participate in the establishment of orthographic representations in memory. The aim of the present study was to assess this hypothesis using handwriting and spelling aloud as two learning conditions. In two experiments, fifth graders were asked to read complex pseudo-words embedded in short sentences. Immediately after reading, participants had to recall the pseudo-words' spellings either by spelling them aloud or by handwriting them down. One week later, orthographic acquisition was tested using two post-tests: a pseudo-word production task (spelling by hand in Experiment 1 or spelling aloud in Experiment 2) and a pseudo-word recognition task. Results showed no significant difference in pseudo-word recognition between the two learning conditions. In the pseudo-word production task, orthography learning improved when the learning and post-test conditions were similar, thus showing a massive encoding-retrieval match effect in the two experiments. However, a mixed model analysis of the pseudo-word production results revealed a significant learning condition effect which remained after control of the encoding-retrieval match effect. This later finding suggests that orthography learning is more efficient when mediated by handwriting than by spelling aloud, whatever the post-test production task.
PMCID: PMC3918583  PMID: 24575058
orthographic acquisition; self-teaching; spelling; handwriting
5.  Visual processing of multiple elements in the dyslexic brain: evidence for a superior parietal dysfunction 
The visual attention (VA) span deficit hypothesis of developmental dyslexia posits that impaired multiple element processing can be responsible for poor reading outcomes. In VA span impaired dyslexic children, poor performance on letter report tasks is associated with reduced parietal activations for multiple letter processing. While this hints towards a non-specific, attention-based dysfunction, it is still unclear whether reduced parietal activity generalizes to other types of stimuli. Furthermore, putative links between reduced parietal activity and reduced ventral occipito-temporal (vOT) in dyslexia have yet to be explored. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging, we measured brain activity in 12 VA span impaired dyslexic adults and 12 adult skilled readers while they carried out a categorization task on single or multiple alphanumeric or non-alphanumeric characters. While healthy readers activated parietal areas more strongly for multiple than single element processing (right-sided for alphanumeric and bilateral for non-alphanumeric), similar stronger multiple element right parietal activations were absent for dyslexic participants. Contrasts between skilled and dyslexic readers revealed significantly reduced right superior parietal lobule (SPL) activity for dyslexic readers regardless of stimuli type. Using a priori anatomically defined regions of interest, we showed that neural activity was reduced for dyslexic participants in both SPL and vOT bilaterally. Finally, we used multiple regressions to test whether SPL activity was related to vOT activity in each group. In the left hemisphere, SPL activity covaried with vOT activity for both normal and dyslexic readers. In contrast, in the right hemisphere, SPL activity covaried with vOT activity only for dyslexic readers. These results bring critical support to the VA interpretation of the VA Span deficit. In addition, they offer a new insight on how deficits in automatic vOT based word recognition could arise in developmental dyslexia.
PMCID: PMC4083222  PMID: 25071509
developmental dyslexia; visual attention; reading; superior parietal lobes
6.  Lexical neighborhood effects in pseudoword spelling 
The general aim of this study is to contribute to a better understanding of the cognitive processes that underpin skilled adult spelling. More specifically, it investigates the influence of lexical neighbors on pseudo-word spelling with the goal of providing a more detailed account of the interaction between lexical and sublexical sources of knowledge in spelling. In prior research examining this topic, adult participants typically heard lists composed of both words and pseudo-words and had to make a lexical decision to each stimulus before writing the pseudo-words. However, these priming paradigms are susceptible to strategic influence and may therefore not give a clear picture of the processes normally engaged in spelling unfamiliar words. In our two Experiments involving 71 French-speaking literate adults, only pseudo-words were presented which participants were simply requested to write to dictation using the first spelling that came to mind. Unbeknownst to participants, pseudo-words varied according to whether they did or did not have a phonological word neighbor. Results revealed that low-probability phoneme/grapheme mappings (e.g., /o/ -> aud in French) were used significantly more often in spelling pseudo-words with a close phonological lexical neighbor with that spelling (e.g., /krepo/ derived from “crapaud,” /krapo/) than in spelling pseudo-words with no close neighbors (e.g., /frøpo/). In addition, the strength of this lexical influence increased with the lexical frequency of the word neighbors as well as with their degree of phonetic overlap with the pseudo-word targets. These results indicate that information from lexical and sublexical processes is integrated in the course of spelling, and a specific theoretical account as to how such integration may occur is introduced.
PMCID: PMC3842689  PMID: 24348436
pseudoword spelling; skilled spelling; literacy; spelling models; neighborhood activation
7.  The Role of Visual Processing Speed in Reading Speed Development 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(4):e58097.
A steady increase in reading speed is the hallmark of normal reading acquisition. However, little is known of the influence of visual attention capacity on children's reading speed. The number of distinct visual elements that can be simultaneously processed at a glance (dubbed the visual attention span), predicts single-word reading speed in both normal reading and dyslexic children. However, the exact processes that account for the relationship between the visual attention span and reading speed remain to be specified. We used the Theory of Visual Attention to estimate visual processing speed and visual short-term memory capacity from a multiple letter report task in eight and nine year old children. The visual attention span and text reading speed were also assessed. Results showed that visual processing speed and visual short term memory capacity predicted the visual attention span. Furthermore, visual processing speed predicted reading speed, but visual short term memory capacity did not. Finally, the visual attention span mediated the effect of visual processing speed on reading speed. These results suggest that visual attention capacity could constrain reading speed in elementary school children.
PMCID: PMC3617167  PMID: 23593117
8.  Investigating the role of visual and auditory search in reading and developmental dyslexia 
It has been suggested that auditory and visual sequential processing deficits contribute to phonological disorders in developmental dyslexia. As an alternative explanation to a phonological deficit as the proximal cause for reading disorders, the visual attention span hypothesis (VA Span) suggests that difficulties in processing visual elements simultaneously lead to dyslexia, regardless of the presence of a phonological disorder. In this study, we assessed whether deficits in processing simultaneously displayed visual or auditory elements is linked to dyslexia associated with a VA Span impairment. Sixteen children with developmental dyslexia and 16 age-matched skilled readers were assessed on visual and auditory search tasks. Participants were asked to detect a target presented simultaneously with 3, 9, or 15 distracters. In the visual modality, target detection was slower in the dyslexic children than in the control group on a “serial” search condition only: the intercepts (but not the slopes) of the search functions were higher in the dyslexic group than in the control group. In the auditory modality, although no group difference was observed, search performance was influenced by the number of distracters in the control group only. Within the dyslexic group, not only poor visual search (high reaction times and intercepts) but also low auditory search performance (d′) strongly correlated with poor irregular word reading accuracy. Moreover, both visual and auditory search performance was associated with the VA Span abilities of dyslexic participants but not with their phonological skills. The present data suggests that some visual mechanisms engaged in “serial” search contribute to reading and orthographic knowledge via VA Span skills regardless of phonological skills. The present results further open the question of the role of auditory simultaneous processing in reading as well as its link with VA Span skills.
PMCID: PMC3782690  PMID: 24093014
dyslexia; reading; visual search; auditory search; attention; temporal processing; visual attention span; phonology
9.  Effect of Orthographic Processes on Letter Identity and Letter-Position Encoding in Dyslexic Children 
The ability to identify letters and encode their position is a crucial step of the word recognition process. However and despite their word identification problem, the ability of dyslexic children to encode letter identity and letter-position within strings was not systematically investigated. This study aimed at filling this gap and further explored how letter identity and letter-position encoding is modulated by letter context in developmental dyslexia. For this purpose, a letter-string comparison task was administered to French dyslexic children and two chronological age (CA) and reading age (RA)-matched control groups. Children had to judge whether two successively and briefly presented four-letter strings were identical or different. Letter-position and letter identity were manipulated through the transposition (e.g., RTGM vs. RMGT) or substitution of two letters (e.g., TSHF vs. TGHD). Non-words, pseudo-words, and words were used as stimuli to investigate sub-lexical and lexical effects on letter encoding. Dyslexic children showed both substitution and transposition detection problems relative to CA-controls. A substitution advantage over transpositions was only found for words in dyslexic children whereas it extended to pseudo-words in RA-controls and to all type of items in CA-controls. Letters were better identified in the dyslexic group when belonging to orthographically familiar strings. Letter-position encoding was very impaired in dyslexic children who did not show any word context effect in contrast to CA-controls. Overall, the current findings point to a strong letter identity and letter-position encoding disorder in developmental dyslexia.
PMCID: PMC3356879  PMID: 22661961
letter-string processing; letter-position encoding; letter-identity encoding; letter transposition; letter substitution; reading acquisition; dyslexic children

Results 1-9 (9)