Silvia Brem

Abstract – 2017 ESCAP Congress, Geneva

From the preschool child to the adult: Neural basis of developmental dyslexia

Original state of the art abstract by Silvia Brem (Zürich University, Klinik für Kinder- und Jugendpsychiatrie und Psychotherapie) on the neural basis of developmental dyslexia (ESCAP 2017 Congress in Geneva, Switzerland).


Reading, writing and arithmetics are among the most important cultural abilities and represent keystone academic skills. Accordingly, children suffering from poor reading abilities typically encounter severe scholastic, academic and professional disadvantages across their lifespan, and are at risk for psychological distress and mental health problems. Developmental dyslexia is a specific learning disorder of reading, often co-occurring with impairments in written expression, affecting around 5-10% of school children. Importantly, as a prevalent comorbidity in child and adolescent psychiatry, developmental dyslexia places a high burden on affected individuals, their families and schools. Child-friendly, non-invasive neuroimaging techniques such as electroencephalography (EEG), structural (sMRI) and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) have contributed to better understand the deficits underlying reading impairments in the brain. At first, I am summarizing the most recent findings on neural correlates of developmental dyslexia from the school child to the adult. Then, I am concentrating on the transition from prereaders to readers and present evidence for neural alterations in the brain structure and function of preschool children at-risk for developmental dyslexia that appear to impede reading acquisition at school age. These novel results in preschoolers not only show that learning to read at school builds on an already altered language processing network in children with developmental dyslexia but, moreover point to the clinical potential of using such prereading differences to predict reading outcome and guide early interventions. Because interventions in developmental dyslexia are most successful the earlier they start, it should be a major aim to identify children with poor reading outcomes at a young age to support these children when they start learning to read with evidence-based trainings.