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Individual differences in reading skill and language lateralisation: A cluster analysis

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Individual differences in reading and cerebral lateralisation were investigated in 200 college students who completed reading assessments and divided visual field word recognition tasks, and received a structural MRI scan. Prior studies on this data set indicated that little variance in brain–behaviour correlations could be attributed to the effects of sex and handedness variables (Chiarello, Welcome, Halderman, & Leonard, 2009; Chiarello, Welcome, Halderman, Towler, et al., 2009; Welcome et al., 2009). Here a more bottom-up approach to behavioural classification (cluster analysis) was used to explore individual differences that need not depend on a priori decisions about relevant subgroups. The cluster solution identified four subgroups of college age readers with differing reading skill and visual field lateralisation profiles. These findings generalised to measures that were not included in the cluster analysis. Poorer reading skill was associated with somewhat reduced VF asymmetry, while average readers demonstrated exaggerated RVF/left hemisphere advantages. Skilled readers had either reduced asymmetries, or asymmetries that varied by task. The clusters did not differ by sex or handedness, suggesting that there are identifiable sources of variance among individuals that are not captured by these standard participant variables. All clusters had typical leftward asymmetry of the planum temporale. However, the size of areas in the posterior corpus callosum distinguished the two subgroups with high reading skill. A total of 17 participants, identified as multivariate outliers, had unusual behavioural profiles and differed from the remainder of the sample in not having significant leftward asymmetry of the planum temporale. A less buffered type of neurodevelopment that is more open to the effects of random genetic and environmental influences may characterise such individuals.
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Keywords: Cerebral asymmetry; Cluster analysis; Corpus callosum; Divided visual field; Individual differences; Language lateralisation; Planum temporale; Reading skill; Structural asymmetry; Word reading

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: University of California, Riverside Riverside, CA, USA 2: University of Florida, Gainesville Gainesville, FL, USA

Publication date: March 1, 2012

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