Developmental dyslexia (DD) is a complex neurodevelopmental deficit characterized by impaired reading acquisition, in spite of adequate neurological and sensorial conditions, educational opportunities and normal intelligence. Despite the successful characterization of DD-susceptibility genes, we are far from understanding the molecular etiological pathways underlying the development of reading (dis)ability. By focusing mainly on clinical phenotypes, the molecular genetics approach has yielded mixed results. More optimally reduced measures of functioning, that is, intermediate phenotypes (IPs), represent a target for researching disease-associated genetic variants and for elucidating the underlying mechanisms. Imaging data provide a viable IP for complex neurobehavioral disorders and have been extensively used to investigate both morphological, structural and functional brain abnormalities in DD. Performing joint genetic and neuroimaging studies in humans is an emerging strategy to link DD-candidate genes to the brain structure and function. A limited number of studies has already pursued the imaging-genetics integration in DD. However, the results are still not sufficient to unravel the complexity of the reading circuit due to heterogeneous study design and data processing. Here, we propose an interdisciplinary, multilevel, imaging-genetic approach to disentangle the pathways from genes to behavior. As the presence of putative functional genetic variants has been provided and as genetic associations with specific cognitive/sensorial mechanisms have been reported, new hypothesis-driven imaging-genetic studies must gain momentum. This approach would lead to the optimization of diagnostic criteria and to the early identification of 'biologically at-risk' children, supporting the definition of adequate and well-timed prevention strategies and the implementation of novel, specific remediation approach.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Psychiatry and Mental health
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
- Biological Psychiatry