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The research team analyzed neuro-imaging data from 33 5-year-old children--all novice readers--who were first given a reading assessment to identify reading problems. They also used maternal blood samples, taken during pregnancy, to estimate prenatal exposure to PDBEs.
The researchers found that children with a better-functioning reading network had fewer reading problems. The also showed that children with greater exposure to PDBEs had a less efficient reading network.
However, greater exposure did not appear to affect the function of another brain network involved in social processing that has been associated with psychiatric disorders such as autism spectrum disorder.
Since social processing problems are not a common aspect of reading disorders, our findings suggest that exposure to PDBEs doesn't affect the whole brain--just the regions associated with reading." Amy Margolis, PhD, assistant professor of medical psychology in the Department of Psychiatry at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons
Although exposure to PDBEs affected reading network function in the 5-year-olds, it did not have an impact on word recognition in this group. The finding is consistent with a previous study, in which the effects of exposure to the compounds on reading were seen in older children but not in emergent readers.
"Our findings suggest that the effects of exposure are present in the brain before we can detect changes in behavior," says Margolis. "Future studies should examine whether behavioral interventions at early ages can reduce the impact of these exposures on later emerging reading problems." Source:
Columbia University Irving Medical Center Journal reference:
Margolis, A. E., et al. (2020) Functional connectivity of the reading network is associated with prenatal polybrominated diphenyl ether concentrations in a community sample of 5 year-old children: A preliminary study. Environment International . doi.org/10.1016/j.envint.2019.105212 .
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