Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience
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The present work considers how connectome-wide differences in brain organization might distinguish good and poor readers. The connectome comprises a ‘rich-club’ organization in which a small number of hub regions play a focal role in assisting global communication across the whole brain. Prior work indicates that this rich-club structure is associated with typical and impaired cognitive function although no work so far has examined how this relates to skilled reading or its disorders. Here we investigated the rich-club structure of brain's white matter connectome and its relationship to reading subskills in 64 children with and without reading disabilities. Among three types of white matter connections, the strength of feeder connections that connect hub and non-hub nodes was significantly correlated with word reading efficiency and phonemic decoding. Phonemic decoding was also positively correlated with connectivity between connectome-wide hubs and nodes within the left-hemisphere reading network, as well as the local efficiency of the reading network. Exploratory analyses also identified sex differences indicating these effects were stronger in girls. This work highlights the independent roles of connectome-wide structure and the more narrowly-defined reading network in understanding the neural bases of skilled and impaired reading in children.