Author ORCID Identifier

0000-0003-1622-2217

Date of Award

8-2022

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Psychology

First Advisor

Robin D. Morris, PhD

Abstract

Adults with persistent reading disabilities (RD) continue to struggle with slow and dysfluent reading throughout their life, even following years of behavioral interventions. Research suggests that persistent fluency deficits result from an inability to develop automaticity in word recognition skills due to a hypothesized instability in activation or efficient connectivity within the brain’s reading network. Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) is known to affect cortical excitability and activation levels, and therefore may be capable of modulating variable activity in the brain’s reading network and enhancing automaticity in word recognition. This may ultimately translate to new approaches for remediation of fluency deficits.

In this study, a mixed reading ability group of adults with impaired to above average reading skills received TMS to the supramarginal gyrus (SMG) and middle temporal gyrus (MTG), two key nodes within the brain’s reading network. Measures of word reading speed and sentence reading speed, as well as measures of underlying component skills supporting automaticity in word recognition (Rapid Automatized Naming (RAN) and orthographic awareness (OA) took place prior to and following TMS. It was hypothesized that, based on the hypothesized role of SMG and MTG in automatic word recognition, TMS to SMG and/or MTG would result in improved automaticity in word recognition, and therefore faster word and sentence reading speed. We found that TBS to the SMG resulted in improved RAN, OA, and speeded word recognition, especially in individuals with weak initial reading skills. Based on our results, TMS may have potential as a future tool to facilitate improvement in reading fluency in conjunction with behavioral reading interventions.

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