Lateralization refers to differences in specialization in specific cognitive processes of the two halves of the brain. Anatomical asymmetries are usually defined at birth while functional asymmetries are a result of maturation processes influenced by development and experience.
Reading is not innate to humans. Evolutionary speaking the brain was not made to read. Therefore it is very likely to involve important structural changes in the brain. Over the past decades neural mechanisms underlying visual word recognition have been studied extensively in proficient readers and fMRI research has revealed a vast cortical network distributed throughout the frontal, temporal, and occipital cortex. However, it is still unclear if reading related regions in the brain become dedicated to reading or serve more general purposes and how lateralization evolves during reading. In general, little information is available on how learning to read changes the brain.
In this longitudinal study we want to study the development of the reading networks and the
lateralization of specific regions in the brain. Functional and anatomical changes in the brain will be examined in a longitudinal study on a group of children before and after official reading instruction. To increase variability mainly left-handed individuals will be included. They show more variability in brain organization and lateralization patterns and form an underinvestigated group in the normal population.