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head: DEMYSTIFYING THE CROSS-ORTHOGRAPHIC MANIFESTATION OF DYSLEXIA IN CHINESE-ENGLISH BILINGUALS: AN FMRI STUDY Demystifying the Cross-Orthographic Manifestation of Dyslexia in Chinese-English Bilinguals: An fMRI Study Russell W. Cavallaro Hampshire College

DEMYSTIFYING THE CROSS-ORTHOGRAPHIC MANIFESTATION OF DYSLEXIA IN CHINESE-ENGLISH BILINGUALS: AN FMRI STUDY Literature Review Introduction We rely on literacy all the timefrom driving, to filing taxes, to reading the dosage off a medicine bottle. Yet, for those individuals affected by reading disabilities, dyslexia among them, text is not fluently read, but instead painstakingly deciphered. According to Lyon, Shaywitz, and Shaywitz (2003) dyslexia is a neurologically based learning disability causing those affected by it to have trouble with reading fluency (ability to read text continuously without stopping), word recognition (recognizing more commonly used

words on sight), decoding (ability to correctly map a words constituent phonemes to their sounds to sound out a word), and spelling (ability to correctly produce written words). Though dyslexia does not directly cause interference, readers afflicted with dyslexia may have trouble comprehending text or less reading experience due to the challenges associate with reading, impeding the breadth of a readers vocabulary and background knowledge. Affecting between five and six percent of English speakers, according to

Butterworth and Tang (2004), dyslexia is fairly common in the Anglophonic world, and thus a large body of research has been conducted on both its treatment and its cognitive bases. However, whats interesting about dyslexia is its variable rate of prevalence across different languages and orthographies. Take Chinese, for example, which employs the use of a logographic writing systemeach character an arbitrary visual representation of a single morpheme (Reich, Chou, & Patterson, 2003). In a sample of 8000 students in Beijing, only around one-and-a-half percent were found to be affected by dyslexia (Butterworth & Tang, 2004). How can the same learning disability be more prevalent in speakers of one language, and less prevalent in speakers of another?


Part of the answer lies in the definition of dyslexia formulated by Lyon et al. (2004)

which attributes the effects of dyslexia to a deficit in phonological processing, described by Naglieri and Goldstein (2009) as being comprised of three skills: phonological awareness, which is the knowledge of the sound system of a language; phonological memory, the ability to mentally conceptualize the sounds of phonemes in short-term memory; and rapid naming, the ability to successfully and rapidly recall the names of given stimuli. Not coincidentally, I argue, English reading relies on phonological processing far more heavily than does Chinese reading (Ho, Chan, Lee, Tsang, & Luan, 2004). To explain dyslexias effect in English speakers specifically, Wolf and Bowers (1999) came up with the double-deficit hypothesis, which identifies two cognitive deficits responsible: phonological awareness and rapid naming skill, two of the three components of Naglieri and Goldsteins (2009) outline of phonological processing. Dyslexias effect in Chinese speakers is slightly different than in English speakers. Chinese orthography. Because Chinese uses an orthographic system of logograms,

the characters themselves rarely inform either the pronunciation or meaning, aside from radicals which occasionally provide merely a hint to the pronunciation, meaning, or both (Reich et al., 2003). So, occasionally readers will be able to use a phonetic radical within a character to aid in recalling pronunciation from memory, however readers of Chinese heavily employ a direct lexical route to reading: rapidly recalling pronunciation-character maps when reading characters (Ho et al., 2004). Speakers of English, on the other hand, are more dependent on phonemic and phonological awareness to read, as is the case with an alphabetic orthography (Chung & Ho, 2010).


memory, and visual skillthe brains physiological ability to process visual stimulirather than phonological awareness (Ho et al., 2004). Congruent with the findings of Ho et al. (2004) is what Chung and Ho (2010) found in their study of dyslexic native speakers of Chinese who were also studying English. Even though phonological impairments were found in the dyslexic children, the impairments were not found to be the main cause of their reading difficulties in Chinese, only in English (Chung & Ho, 2010). But, if phonological awareness is not the main factor in Chinese dyslexia, then what is? Ho et al. (2004) provide evidence towards two main factors: deficits in the ability to rapidly name presented stimuli and the ability to rapidly and accurately create word-images (orthographic representations) in short-term memory, or rapid naming skill and orthographic skill, respectively. This finding provides evidence for Chinese dyslexias characterization of having trouble differentiating two similar characters, and frequent confusion of two characters with the same pronunciation but different meaning (Hu, et al., 2010). Dyslexias Cross-Linguistic Neurological Basis Given all of these findings, it barely seems possible that what has been called dyslexia in English speakers really is the same thing as what has been called dyslexia in Chinese speakers. Shockingly enough, Hu et al. (2010) shed some light on the mystery of the neurological basis of dyslexia across orthographies. Using fMRI technology, Hu et al. (2010) demonstrated that although the neural activity of cognitively normal English speakers and cognitively normal Chinese speakers differed when performing various lexical tasks, the neural activity of both English and Chinese dyslexics was almost identical while performing the same tasks. In normal Chinese readers, Hu et al. (2010) found, there

DEMYSTIFYING THE CROSS-ORTHOGRAPHIC MANIFESTATION OF DYSLEXIA IN CHINESE-ENGLISH BILINGUALS: AN FMRI STUDY is more activation in the left inferior frontal sulcus, or LIFS, while in normal English readers, there is more activation in the left posterior superior temporal sulcus, or LpSTS. However, in both English speaking and Chinese speaking dyslexics, both the LIFS and

LpSTS were activated, showing a universal activation pattern for dyslexia-affected reading. The result of these findings is evidence in favor of the notion that dyslexia is dissociated from language and orthography, and shares a common neural basis across linguistic differences (Hu et al., 2010). Dyslexias Interactions with Bilingualism While the findings of Hu et al. (2010) suggest some coherence among the different orthographic and linguistic flavors of dyslexia, the introduction of bilingualism further complicates the story. Many studies have been conducted on bilingual dyslexics, both with speakers of two languages with similar orthographies and with speakers of two languages with different orthographies, and unfortunately the findings suggest that skill set transfer between the primary language and the secondary language largely depend on the two languages in question, specifically their orthographies. Behavioral manifestation of dyslexia in bilinguals. At one extreme there is the

possibility of bilingual people dyslexic in one language but not the other, like Alan who is severely dyslexic in English, but in the top ten percent of Japanese readers (Butterworth & Tang, 2004; Wang, Park, & Lee, 2006). At the other extreme, Chung and Ho (2010) provide evidence of the complete cross-linguistic transfer of deficits in rapid naming skill, orthographic skill, phonological awareness, and morphological skill by bilingual dyslexics from the mother tongue, Chinese, to the secondary language, English. In other words, there is evidence that bilingual dyslexics exhibit who these deficits in their mother tongue also

DEMYSTIFYING THE CROSS-ORTHOGRAPHIC MANIFESTATION OF DYSLEXIA IN CHINESE-ENGLISH BILINGUALS: AN FMRI STUDY exhibit these deficits in their secondary language. Then there are Wang, Cheng, and Chen

(2006) who demonstrated the possibility of the transfer of morphological skill in bilinguals from English as a secondary language to Chinese as a first language. Essentially, Wang et al. (2006) offer evidence that morphological skills acquired during learning to read English also transferred to Chinese character reading. Perfetti, Zhang, and Berent (1992) even provide evidence for the bi-directional transfer of metalinguistic skill across orthographic systems (as cited in Chung & Ho, 2010, p. 196). Neural manifestation of dyslexia in bilinguals. In addition to the just aforementioned evidence which sheds light upon the behavioral manifestation of dyslexia in bilingual speakers of different languages, there are also a host of neural imaging studies which tell us not only about the nature of dyslexia or bilingualism in the brain, but also provide some insight into the brain activation patterns of bilingual dyslexics, which the present study seeks to explore further. Kovelman, Baker, and Petitto (2008) argue that bilinguals have differentiated neural patterns when performing reading tasks in each of their two languages. That is, bilinguals minds contain two distinct monolingual-like representations of the two languages that they speak, displaying different activation patterns which are more similar to the activation patterns of monolingual speakers of each language (Kovelman, et al., 2008). Additionally, Oren and Breznitz (2005) found by measuring event-related potentials, or ERPs, that while the manifestation of dyslexia appears to be affected by language, the deficits in reading skill are similar cross-linguistically. In other words, the degree to which dyslexia physically manifests itself during reading is dependent on the language, and by extension the orthography, being read. However, though dyslexia affects


reading of different languages to different extents, the reading impairments themselves are the same (Oren & Breznitz, 2005). Motivation for the Present Study If dyslexia shares a common neural basis across monolingual speakers of language with differing orthographies, which according to Hu, et al. (2010) it does, then what gives rise to the aforementioned phenomena surrounding differences in its manifestation between languages within a single, bilingual speaker of two languages which employ different orthographies? How is it that rapid naming skill, orthographic skill, phonological awareness, and morphological skill transfer between bilingual speakers of some languages (as shown by Chung and Ho [2010] in Chinese and English bilinguals), but not others, as Wang, et al. (2006) demonstrated was the case in Korean and English bilingual speakers with the lack of transfer of orthographic skill? These discrepancies in the literature serve to motivate my present study of dyslexias differential manifestations in bilingual speakers of English and Chinese. Research Aims In the present study, I hope to answer the question of what the differences in neurological bases are in the brain of bilingual dyslexic person completing lexical tasks first in English language, then Chinese. Asking this question, which has been left unanswered by the current body of literature on the subject, is crucial both to our understanding of the nature of dyslexia and to our understanding of how bilingualism interacts with the brain. The present study, which hopefully will provide some insight towards the answer to this question, will be the first study of its kind to show how the relationship between bilingualism and learning disabilities is manifested in the brain.

DEMYSTIFYING THE CROSS-ORTHOGRAPHIC MANIFESTATION OF DYSLEXIA IN CHINESE-ENGLISH BILINGUALS: AN FMRI STUDY Methods Participants Dyslexic bilingual group. 30 adult dyslexic bilinguals of Chinese nationality will

participate in the present study. The participants responded to an advertisement posted in a popular Beijing regional news publication, thus the sample is comprised of Beijing metropolitan area residents, promising 100RMB compensation for participation. The range of ages spans from 29 years old at the youngest to 56 years old at the oldest. Mandarin Chinese is the primary language of all of the participants, while English fluency was achieved before the completion of elementary school, so all participants have been fluent speakers of both Chinese and English for at least fifteen years. Normal reader bilingual group. Additionally, 30 more adult bilinguals of Chinese nationality were selected to participate in the present study. These participants are not dyslexic, and will therefore hereto forth be referred to as the normal reader group. These participants are also Beijing metropolitan area residents, having also responded to an advertisement in a popular Beijing magazine, which also promised 100RMB for participation. The age range of the normal reader group spanned from 25 years of age to 49 years of age. Sample demographic justification. Why speakers of English and Chinese rather than of English and Korean, English and Japanese, or English and any other language? There are two reasons for my selection of bilingual English and Chinese speakers. The first is more of a practical reason, as previous research has been conducted both on the common neural basis of dyslexia and on the role morphological awareness plays in Chinese and English bilingual childrens reading, as described in the present literature review. The

DEMYSTIFYING THE CROSS-ORTHOGRAPHIC MANIFESTATION OF DYSLEXIA IN CHINESE-ENGLISH BILINGUALS: AN FMRI STUDY second reason is that Chinese is the most common language that uses a completely logographic orthography, completely differing from any form of alphabetic orthography,

the orthographic system employed when writing English. While Korean and Japanese both use somewhat of a logographic system so one extent or another, Korean uses logograms which are comprised of phonemic building blocks, and Japanese uses a mixture of both logograms and alphabetic phonemes. Procedure The present study will have participants from both the dyslexic group and the

normal reader group perform a number of lexical tasks while having their neural activity observed via functional magnetic resonance imaging, or fMRI. By doing so, we should be able to observe the differences in neural activation between dyslexics and non-dyslexics during Chinese and English language processing. The data will when be analyzed to determine the effect the independent variables (dyslexic versus normal reader, Chinese tasks versus English tasks) have on the dependent variable (brain activation pattern). The tasks will first be each completed in one language, either Chinese or English, and then in the other language. Lexical tasks. These lexical tasks are adapted from Chung and Hos (2010) study of

Chinese children with dyslexia. Rapid naming tasks. The rapid naming tasks for Chinese and English are essentially

the same, since the stimuli for which the participant must name is an image, which is universal rather than language specific. For this task, twenty-five images will be displayed on a computer screen in front of the participant, and the participant will be asked to name these images rapidly and as correctly as possible.



Chinese orthographic skill task. For the Chinese orthographic skill task, participants

will be given a list of thirty Chinese characters and thirty non-characters on a piece of paper. The participants will be asked to cross out all of the non-characters. Because of the nature of Chinese characters, it is not as simple to create non-characters as creating a non- word in English. The Chinese non-characters will be created by combining real semantic radicals and real phonetic radicals in configurations which do not follow the general rules of Chinese character construction. English orthographic skill task. Similar to the Chinese task, participants will be given

a list of thirty English words and thirty English-sounding non-words on a piece of paper. They will then be asked to cross out all of the non-words on the paper. Phonological awareness tasks. Chinese phonological awareness task. Participants will participate in ten trials in

which they will listen to a recording of a native speaker reading three Chinese syllables, two with matching onset phonemes and one different one. They will then perform the same task, again in ten trials, except this time with two syllables having matching rhymes and one different one. English phonological awareness task. Participants will listen to a recording of a

native English speaker read off twenty one-syllable words and twenty phonemes, contained in each word. The participant will be asked to repeat the word out loud after deleting the words corresponding phoneme. For example, the recording will play the word golf and ask the participant to delete the phoneme /g/, which would be olf.



Chinese and English are quite similar, just differing in the language of administration, in the same vein as the rapid naming tasks. For this task, participants will be asked to complete twenty trials in which they will hear a sentence in either language which describes a word, and then asks the participant to make an analogy to another word or non-word which would make sense for the purposes of the task. An example of this would entail the recording reading off a sentence like, There is a small round fruit which grows on bushes and has dark blue skin. It is called a blueberry. What would you call a small round fruit which grows on bushes and has red skin? with the correct response being a redberry. Data collection. While performing these tasks, participants will have their brain

activation patterns recorded by an fMRI machine. Data will be collected so that we can see not only how each individual participants own brain activation differences when completing Chinese lexical tasks versus English lexical tasks, but also how specifically the dyslexic groups brain activation differed while performing Chinese and English lexical tasks. This data is controlled via the normal reader groups brain activation while performing Chinese and English lexical tasks. Predicted Results Based largely upon the findings of Oren and Breznitz (2005), as well as Hu et al. (2010), I believe that we will discover that the brain activation patterns of Chinese bilingual dyslexics will be the same when performing lexical tasks in either Chinese or English, as opposed to the control group which I will demonstrate exactly what Kovelman, et al. (2008) showed in their study: that when performing tasks in either language, the



subjects brain activation pattern will mimic those of monolingual speakers of the language in question. Conclusion Concluding Thoughts For the purposes of concluding the present study, as well as summarizing the rationale for my prediction, I will briefly reiterate the findings which lead me to the just aforementioned results. Hu, et al. (2010) showed that both dyslexic speakers of English and dyslexic speakers of Chinese share a common activation pattern: increased activity in both the left inferior frontal sulcus and the left posterior superior temporal sulcus. Additionally, Kovelman, et al. (2008) argued that when unimpaired bilingual speakers perform lexical tasks in one language, their brain activation pattern mimics that of a monolingual speaker of that language. Given these two findings, it follows that because the activation pattern of a dyslexic monolingual speaker of either Chinese or English is the same, the brain activation in bilingual dyslexics would be the same regardless of whether the tasks were performed in the primary language, in this case Chinese, or the secondary language, in this case English. Future Directions While this study will provide insight towards the nature of dyslexia as it relates to bilingualism, more research still has to be conducted. While outside the scope of the present study, we still need to better understand the mechanisms through which text from different orthographies is processed in the brains of bilinguals. Do Chinese bilingual speakers of English process English reading in the brain the same way that native monolingual English readers do? And conversely, do American or British bilingual speakers of Chinese process the reading of characters in the brain the same way native monolingual



researching these questions, in addition to replicating studies like this one, we can continue to better understand the nature of dyslexia, and hopefully apply this knowledge to help those affected by it manage the impairment. References Butterworth, B., & Tang, J. (2004, September 22). Dyslexia has a language barrier. The Guardian. Retrieved October 6, 2011, from

Chung, K. K., & Ho, C. S. (2010). Second language learning difficulties in Chinese children with dyslexia: What are the reading-related cognitive skills that contribute to English and Chinese word reading?. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 43(3), 195-211.

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Lyon, G., Shaywitz, S. E., & Shaywitz, B. A. (2003). A definition of dyslexia. Annals of Dyslexia, 53, 1-14.

DEMYSTIFYING THE CROSS-ORTHOGRAPHIC MANIFESTATION OF DYSLEXIA IN CHINESE-ENGLISH BILINGUALS: AN FMRI STUDY Naglieri, J. A., & Goldstein, S. (2009). Achievement tests. Practitioners guide to assessing intelligence and achievement (pp. 339-572). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.


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