Purpose Reading comprehension is closely associated with word recognition, particularly at the early stage of reading development. This association is reflected in children with reading difficulties (RD) who demonstrate poor reading comprehension along with delayed word recognition or reduced recognition accuracy. Although the neural mechanisms underlying reading comprehension and word recognition are well studied, few has investigated the white matter (WM) structures that the two processes potentially share. Methods To explore the issue, behavioral scores (word recognition & reading comprehension) and diffusion spectrum imaging (DSI) were acquired from Chinese-speaking children with RD and their age-matched typically developing children. WM structures were measured with generalized fractional anisotropy and normalized quantitative anisotropy to optimize fiber tracking precision. Results The children with RD performed significantly poorer than the typically developing children in both behavioral tasks. Between group differences of WM structure were found in the right superior temporal gyrus, the left medial frontal gyrus, the left medial frontal gyrus, and the left caudate body. A significant association between reading comprehension and Chinese character recognition and the DSI indices were found in the corpus callosum. The findings demonstrated the microstructural difference between children with and without reading difficulties go beyond the well-established reading network. Further, the association between the WM integrity of the corpus callosum and the behavioral scores reveals the involvement of the WM structure in both tasks. Conclusion It suggests the two reading-related skills have partially overlapped neural mechanism. Associating the corpus callosum with the reading skills leads to the reconsideration of the right hemisphere role in the typical reading process and, potentially, how it compensates for children with reading difficulties.
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