Reading difficulties (RDs) are characterized by slow and inaccurate reading as well as additional challenges in cognitive control (i.e., executive functions, especially in working memory, inhibition, and visual attention). Despite evidence demonstrating differences in these readers’ language and visual processing abilities, white matter differences associated with executive functions (EFs) difficulties in children with RDs are scarce. Structural correlates for reading and EFs in 8- to 12-year-old children with RDs versus typical readers (TRs) were examined using diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) data. Results suggest that children with RDs showed significantly lower reading and EF abilities versus TRs. Lower fractional anisotropy (FA) in left temporo-parietal tracts was found in children with RDs, who also showed positive correlations between reading and working memory and switching/inhibition scores and FA in the left superior longitudinal fasciculus (SLF). FA in the left SLF predicted working memory performance mediated by reading ability in children with RDs but not TRs. Our findings support alterations in white matter tracts related to working memory, switching/inhibition, and overall EF challenges in children with RDs and the linkage between working memory difficulties and FA alterations in the left SLF in children with RDs via reading.

Our findings support alterations in white matter tracts related to working memory, a component of executive functions, and reading in children with reading difficulties as well as the differences in association between white matter alterations in tracts associated with reading deficiency and working memory, switching/inhibition and overall executive function challenges in children with reading difficulties.

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Author notes

Competing Interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

Handling Editor: Patric Hagmann

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