Functional magnetic resonance imaging of early visual pathways in dyslexia

Jonathan B. Demb, Geoffrey M. Boynton, David J. Heeger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We measured brain activity, perceptual thresholds, and reading performance in a group of dyslexic and normal readers to test the hypothesis that dyslexia is associated with an abnormality in the magnocellular (M) pathway of the early visual system. Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) was used to measure brain activity in conditions designed to preferentially stimulate the M pathway. Speed discrimination thresholds, which measure the minimal increase in stimulus speed that is just noticeable, were acquired in a paradigm modeled after a previous study of M pathway- lesioned monkeys. Dyslexics showed reduced brain activity compared with controls both in primary visual cortex (V1) and in several extrastriate areas, including area MT and adjacent motion-sensitive areas (MT+) that are believed to receive a predominant M pathway input. There was a strong three- way correlation between brain activity, speed discrimination thresholds, and reading speed. Subjects with higher V1 and MT+ responses had lower perceptual thresholds (better performance) and were faster readers. These results support the hypothesis for an M pathway abnormality in dyslexia and imply strong relationships between the integrity of the M pathway, visual motion perception, and reading ability.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6939-6951
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number17
StatePublished - Sep 1 1998


  • FMRI
  • MT
  • Neuroimaging
  • Psychophysics
  • Reading
  • Speed discrimination
  • V1

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience


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