Early childhood is a critical period for structural brain development as well as an important window for the identification and remediation of reading difficulties. Recent research supports the implementation of interventions in at-risk populations as early as kindergarten or first grade, yet the neurocognitive mechanisms following such interventions remain understudied. To address this, we investigated cortical structure by means of anatomical MRI before and after a 12-week tablet-based intervention in: (1) at-risk children receiving phonics-based training (n = 29; n = 16 complete pre–post datasets), (2) at-risk children engaging with AC training (n = 24; n = 15 complete pre–post datasets) and (3) typically developing children (n = 25; n = 14 complete pre–post datasets) receiving no intervention. At baseline, we found higher surface area of the right supramarginal gyrus in at-risk children compared to typically developing peers, extending previous evidence that early anatomical differences exist in children who may later develop dyslexia. Our longitudinal analysis revealed significant post-intervention thickening of the left supramarginal gyrus, present exclusively in the intervention group but not the active control or typical control groups. Altogether, this study contributes new knowledge to our understanding of the brain morphology associated with cognitive risk for dyslexia and response to early intervention, which in turn raises new questions on how early anatomy and plasticity may shape the trajectories of long-term literacy development.
Competing Interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.
Handling Editor: Kate Watkins