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Open Access Open Badges Research article

Word Processing differences between dyslexic and control children

Isabella Paul*, Christof Bott, Christian Wienbruch and Thomas R Elbert

Author Affiliations

Department of Psychology, University of Konstanz, Germany, PO-Box D 25, 78457 Konstanz, Germany

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BMC Psychiatry 2006, 6:5  doi:10.1186/1471-244X-6-5

Published: 27 January 2006



The aim of this study was to investigate brain responses triggered by different wordclasses in dyslexic and control children. The majority of dyslexic children have difficulties to phonologically assemble a word from sublexical parts following grapheme-to-phoneme correspondences. Therefore, we hypothesised that dyslexic children should mainly differ from controls processing low frequent words that are unfamiliar to the reader.


We presented different wordclasses (high and low frequent words, pseudowords) in a rapid serial visual word (RSVP) design and performed wavelet analysis on the evoked activity.


Dyslexic children had lower evoked power amplitudes and a higher spectral frequency for low frequent words compared to control children. No group differences were found for high frequent words and pseudowords. Control children had higher evoked power amplitudes and a lower spectral frequency for low frequent words compared to high frequent words and pseudowords. This pattern was not present in the dyslexic group.


Dyslexic children differed from control children only in their brain responses to low frequent words while showing no modulated brain activity in response to the three word types. This might support the hypothesis that dyslexic children are selectively impaired reading words that require sublexical processing. However, the lacking differences between word types raise the question if dyslexic children were able to process the words presented in rapid serial fashion in an adequate way. Therefore the present results should only be interpreted as evidence for a specific sublexical processing deficit with caution.