Event-related brain potentials elicited by rhyming and non-rhyming pictures differentiate subgroups of reading disabled adolescents

Research paper by W. Brian McPherson, Peggy T. Ackerman, D. Michael Oglesby, Roscoe A. Dykman

Indexed on: 01 Jan '96Published on: 01 Jan '96Published in: Integrative Psychological and Behavioral Science


Event-related brain potentials were recorded while disabled adolescent subjects read and judged whether two sequentially presented pictures had names that rhymed. Subjects with relatively good phonetic skills displayed an N400 priming effect, i.e., a significant reduction in the amplitude of the negative peak, occurring approximately 400 msec post-stimulus, for pictures with names that rhymed with preceding pictures as compared with pictures that had names that did not rhyme with the prime. No such effect was evident for subjects with relatively poor phonetic skills. This lack of an N400 priming effect provides evidence for a reduction in neural capacity and/or activation during phonological processing in the subjects with poor phonological skills. Demonstrating the N400 priming effect to be stronger in one group of reading disabled subjects, compared to another, supports the position that specific subtypes of reading disability exist.In addition to the stronger N400 priming effect, the phonetically stronger group also exhibited an enhanced negativity, from 700 to 1,000 msec after target stimulus onset, compared to phonetically inferior subjects. This finding replicates earlier work and possibly reflects a higher level of confidence in the group with better phonetic skills.