How many deficits in the same dyslexic brains? A behavioural and fMRI assessment of comorbidity in adult dyslexics

Laura Danelli, Manuela Berlingeri, Gabriella Bottini, Nunzio A. Borghese, Mirko Lucchese, Maurizio Sberna, Cathy J. Price, Eraldo Paulesu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Dyslexia can have different manifestations: this has motivated different theories on its nature, on its underlying brain bases and enduring controversies on how to best treat it. The relative weight of the different manifestations has never been evaluated using both behavioural and fMRI measures, a challenge taken here to assess the major systems called into play in dyslexia by different theories. We found that adult well-compensated dyslexics were systematically impaired only in reading and in visuo-phonological tasks, while deficits for other systems (e.g., motor/cerebellar, visual magnocellular/motion perception) were only very occasional. In line with these findings, fMRI showed a reliable hypoactivation only for the task of reading, in the left occipito-temporal cortex (l-OTC). The l-OTC, normally a crossroad between the reading system and other systems, did not show the same level of intersection in dyslexics; yet, it was not totally silent because it responded, in segregated parts, during auditory phonological and visual motion perception tasks. This minimal behavioural and functional anatomical comorbidity demonstrates that a specific deficit of reading is the best description for developmental dyslexia, at least for adult well-compensated cases, with clear implications for rehabilitation strategies. The reduced intersection of multiple systems in the l-OTC suggests that dyslexics suffer from a coarser connectivity, leading to disconnection between the multiple domains that normally interact during reading.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)125-142
Number of pages18
Publication statusPublished - Dec 1 2017


  • Comorbidity
  • Developmental dyslexia
  • Disconnection hypothesis
  • fMRI
  • Occipito-temporal cortex

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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