Siok et al show that the brain changes associated with dyslexia in an alphabetic versus an ideographic language can be different. In alphabetic language, a reader sees a letter and associates it with a sound. Chinese characters correspond to syllables and require much more memorization. Both Chinese and English dyslexics find it harder to make their way through even fairly simple written material. This study suggests that their brain mechanics as they try to read may be as different as Chinese is from English. Here is their abstract:
Developmental dyslexia is a neurobiologically based disorder that affects approximately 5–17% of school children and is characterized by a severe impairment in reading skill acquisition. For readers of alphabetic (e.g., English) languages, recent neuroimaging studies have demonstrated that dyslexia is associated with weak reading-related activity in left temporoparietal and occipitotemporal regions, and this activity difference may reflect reductions in gray matter volume in these areas. Here, we find different structural and functional abnormalities in dyslexic readers of Chinese, a nonalphabetic language. Compared with normally developing controls, children with impaired reading in logographic Chinese exhibited reduced gray matter volume in a left middle frontal gyrus region previously shown to be important for Chinese reading and writing. Using functional MRI to study language-related activation of cortical regions in dyslexics, we found reduced activation in this same left middle frontal gyrus region in Chinese dyslexics versus controls, and there was a significant correlation between gray matter volume and activation in the language task in this same area. By contrast, Chinese dyslexics did not show functional or structural (i.e., volumetric gray matter) differences from normal subjects in the more posterior brain systems that have been shown to be abnormal in alphabetic-language dyslexics. The results suggest that the structural and functional basis for dyslexia varies between alphabetic and nonalphabetic languages.