The Impact of Reading Intervention on Brain Responses Underlying Language in Children With Autism

Academic Article


  • Deficits in language comprehension have been widely reported in children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD), with behavioral and neuroimaging studies finding increased reliance on visuospatial processing to aid in language comprehension. However, no study to date, has taken advantage of this strength in visuospatial processing to improve language comprehension difficulties in ASD. This study used a translational neuroimaging approach to test the role of a visual imagery-based reading intervention in improving the brain circuitry underlying language processing in children with ASD. Functional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), in a longitudinal study design, was used to investigate intervention-related change in sentence comprehension, brain activation, and functional connectivity in three groups of participants (age 8-13 years): an experimental group of ASD children (ASD-EXP), a wait-list control group of ASD children (ASD-WLC), and a group of typically developing control children. After intervention, the ASD-EXP group showed significant increase in activity in visual and language areas and right-hemisphere language area homologues, putamen, and thalamus, suggestive of compensatory routes to increase proficiency in reading comprehension. Additionally, ASD children who had the most improvement in reading comprehension after intervention showed greater functional connectivity between left-hemisphere language areas, the middle temporal gyrus and inferior frontal gyrus while reading high imagery sentences. Thus, the findings of this study, which support the principles of dual coding theory [Paivio 2007], suggest the potential of a strength-based reading intervention in changing brain responses and facilitating better reading comprehension in ASD children.
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Pubmed Id

  • 23811165
  • Author List

  • Murdaugh DL; Deshpande HD; Kana RK
  • Start Page

  • 141
  • End Page

  • 154
  • Volume

  • 9