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Debbie Giaschi
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Motion Perception
UBC Vision Lab
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Visual Neuroscience Lab

Dyslexia Research
Dyslexia and fMRI

To determine, using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), if overlapping cortical networks for reading and temporal processing are compromised in individuals with dyslexia. This research is funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR).

Select Abstracts from Completed Projects

Partanen M; Fitzpatrick K; Mädler B; Edgell D; Bjornson B; Giaschi DE (2012) Cortical basis for dichotic pitch perception in developmental dyslexia. Brain and Language , 123 (2), 104-112

The current study examined auditory processing deficits in dyslexia using a dichotic pitch stimulus and functional MRI. Cortical activation by the dichotic pitch task occurred in bilateral Heschl's gyri, right planum temporale, and right superior temporal sulcus. Adolescents with dyslexia, relative to age-matched controls, illustrated greater activity in left Heschl's gyrus for random noise, less activity in right Heschl's gyrus for all auditory conditions, and less activity in right superior temporal sulcus for a dichotic melody. Subsequent analyses showed that these group differences were attributable to dyslexic readers who performed poorly on the psychophysical task. Furthermore, behavioral performance on phonological reading was correlated to activity from dichotic conditions in right Heschl's gyrus and right superior temporal sulcus. It is postulated that these differences between reader groups is primarily due to a noise exclusion deficit shown previously in dyslexia.

Boden C, Giaschi D (2007) M-stream deficits and reading-related visual processes in developmental dyslexia. Psychological Bulletin, 133, 346-66

Some visual processing deficits in developmental dyslexia have been attributed to abnormalities in the subcortical M stream and/or the cortical dorsal stream of the visual pathways. The nature of the relationship between these visual deficits and reading is unknown. The purpose of the present article was to characterize reading-related perceptual processes that may link the visual deficits to reading problems. We identified contrast sensitivity, position encoding, oculomotor control, visual attention, parafoveal/foveal interactions, and saccadic suppression as potential reading-related dorsal stream processes. We then evaluated the role of each process in reading and the status of each process in dyslexia. In theory, a number of dorsal stream processes (e.g., oculomotor control and visual attention) might contribute to reading problems in developmental dyslexia. More work is needed to demonstrate the connection empirically.

Visser T, Boden C, Giaschi D (2004) Children with dyslexia: evidence for visual attention deficits in perception of rapid sequences of objects. Vision Research, 44, 2521-2535.

The attentional blink (AB) refers to a decrease in accuracy that occurs when observers are required to identify, detect or classify the second of two rapidly-sequential targets. The AB is typically attributed to an inability to rapidly reallocate attentional resources from the first to the second target. Thus, it provides an ideal tool to investigate how visual attention is rapidly allocated to sequences of stimuli such as occurs when reading. In the present work, we compared the magnitude of the AB in children with developmental dyslexia to reading-matched and age-matched control groups. In Experiment 1, when two targets were presented in the same spatial location, the AB deficit was similar in the reading-matched and dyslexic groups, but greater in the dyslexic group than in age-matched controls. In Experiment 2, when targets were presented in different spatial locations, performance in the dyslexic group was worse than the age-matched controls and marginally worse than the reading-matched controls. Taken together, the results argue for developmental delays in the ability of children with dyslexia to allocate attention to rapidly-sequential stimuli, as well as some evidence for difficulties that are unique to this group.

Edwards V, Giaschi D, Dougherty R, Edgell D, Bjornson B, Lyons C, Douglas R (2004) Psychophysical indices of temporal processing abnormalities in children with dyslexia. Developmental Neuropsychology, 25, 321-354.

Children with dyslexia and children progressing normally in reading performed several perceptual tasks to determine (a) the psychophysical measures that best differentiate children with dyslexia from children with average reading abilities; (b) the extent of temporal processing deficits in a single, well-defined group of children with dyslexia; and (c) the co-occurrence of visual and auditory temporal processing deficits in children with dyslexia. Four of our twelve psychophysical tasks indicated differences in temporal processing ability between children with dyslexia and children with good reading skills. These included two auditory tasks (dichotic pitch perception and FM tone discrimination) and two visual tasks (global motion perception and contrast sensitivity). The battery of 12 tasks successfully classified 80% of the children into their respective reading-level groups. Within the group of children with dyslexia who had temporal processing deficits, most were affected in either audition or vision; few children were affected in both modalities. The observed deficits suggest that impaired temporal processing in dyslexia is most evident on tasks that require the ability to synthesize local, temporally modulated inputs into a global percept and the ability to extract the resultant global percept from a noisy environment.

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