Developmental dyslexia is the most common learning disability in school-aged children with an estimated incidence of five to ten percent. The cause and pathophysiological substrate of this developmental disorder is unclear. Recently, a possible involvement of the cerebellum in the pathogenesis of dyslexia has been postulated.
In this study, 15 dyslexic children and 7 age-matched control subjects were investigated by means of functional neuroimaging (fMRI) using a noun-verb association paradigm. Comparison of activation patterns between dyslexic and control subjects revealed distinct and significant differences in cerebral and cerebellar activation. Control subjects showed bilaterally well-defined and focal activation patterns in the frontal and parietal lobes and the posterior regions of the cerebellar hemispheres. The dyslexic children, however, presented widespread and diffuse activations on the cerebral and cerebellar level. Cerebral activations were found in frontal, parietal, temporal and occipital regions. Activations in the cerebellum were found predominantly in the cerebellar cortex, including Crus I, Crus II, hemispheric lobule VI, VII and vermal lobules I, II, III, IV and VII.
This preliminary study is the first to reveal a significant difference in cerebellar functioning between dyslexic children and controls during a semantic association task. As a result, we propose a new hypothesis regarding the pathophysiological mechanisms of developmental dyslexia. Given the sites of activation in the cerebellum in the dyslexic group, a defect of the intra-cerebellar distribution of activity is suspected, suggesting a disorder of the processing or transfer of information within the cerebellar cortex. (C) 2008 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.