The role of visual attention in dyslexia: Behavioral and neurobiological evidence

Nikolay Taran, Rola Farah, Mark DiFrancesco, Mekibib Altaye, Jennifer Vannest, Scott Holland, Keri Rosch, Bradley L. Schlaggar, Tzipi Horowitz-Kraus

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Poor phonological processing has typically been considered the main cause of dyslexia. However, visuo-attentional processing abnormalities have been described as well. The goal of the present study was to determine the involvement of visual attention during fluent reading in children with dyslexia and typical readers. Here, 75 children (8–12 years old; 36 typical readers, 39 children with dyslexia) completed cognitive and reading assessments. Neuroimaging data were acquired while children performed a fluent reading task with (a) a condition where the text remained on the screen (Still) versus (b) a condition in which the letters were being deleted (Deleted). Cognitive assessment data analysis revealed that visual attention, executive functions, and phonological awareness significantly contributed to reading comprehension in both groups. A seed-to-voxel functional connectivity analysis was performed on the fluency functional magnetic resonance imaging task. Typical readers showed greater functional connectivity between the dorsal attention network and the left angular gyrus while performing the Still and Deleted reading tasks versus children with dyslexia. Higher connectivity values were associated with higher reading comprehension. The control group showed increased functional connectivity between the ventral attention network and the fronto-parietal network during the Deleted text condition (compared with the Still condition). Children with dyslexia did not display this pattern. The results suggest that the synchronized activity of executive, visual attention, and reading-related networks is a pattern of functional integration which children with dyslexia fail to achieve. The present evidence points toward a critical role of visual attention in dyslexia.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1720-1737
Number of pages18
JournalHuman Brain Mapping
Issue number5
StatePublished - Apr 1 2022


  • attention
  • brain
  • dyslexia
  • executive function
  • learning disabilities
  • magnetic resonance imaging
  • reading

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Neurology
  • Radiological and Ultrasound Technology
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Anatomy


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