Speech-brain synchronization: a possible cause for developmental dyslexia
Lizarazu Ugalde, Mikel
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Dyslexia is a neurological learning disability characterized by the difficulty in an individual¿s ability to read despite adequate intelligence and normal opportunities. The majority of dyslexic readers present phonological difficulties. The phonological difficulty most often associated with dyslexia is a deficit in phonological awareness, that is, the ability to hear and manipulate the sound structure of language. Some appealing theories of dyslexia attribute a causal role to auditory atypical oscillatory neural activity, suggesting it generates some of the phonological problems in dyslexia. These theories propose that auditory cortical oscillations of dyslexic individuals entrain less accurately to the spectral properties of auditory stimuli at distinct frequency bands (delta, theta and gamma) that are important for speech processing. Nevertheless, there are diverging hypotheses concerning the specific bands that would be disrupted in dyslexia, and which are the consequences of such difficulties on speech processing. The goal of the present PhD thesis was to portray the neural oscillatory basis underlying phonological difficulties in developmental dyslexia. We evaluated whether phonological deficits in developmental dyslexia are associated with impaired auditory entrainment to a specific frequency band. In that aim, we measured auditory neural synchronization to linguistic and non-linguistic auditory signals at different frequencies corresponding to key phonological units of speech (prosodic, syllabic and phonemic information). We found that dyslexic readers presented atypical neural entrainment to delta, theta and gamma frequency bands. Importantly, we showed that atypical entrainment to theta and gamma modulations in dyslexia could compromise perceptual computations during speech processing, while reduced delta entrainment in dyslexia could affect perceptual and attentional operations during speech processing. In addition, we characterized the links between the anatomy of the auditory cortex and its oscillatory responses, taking into account previous studies which have observed structural alterations in dyslexia. We observed that the cortical pruning in auditory regions was linked to a stronger sensitivity to gamma oscillation in skilled readers, but to stronger theta band sensitivity in dyslexic readers. Thus, we concluded that the left auditory regions might be specialized for processing phonological information at different time scales (phoneme vs. syllable) in skilled and dyslexic readers. Lastly, by assessing both children and adults on similar tasks, we provided the first evaluation of developmental modulations of typical and atypical auditory sampling (and their structural underpinnings). We found that atypical neural entrainment to delta, theta and gamma are present in dyslexia throughout the lifespan and is not modulated by reading experience.