Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor's Name

Anthony Steven Dick

First Advisor's Committee Title

Major Professor

Second Advisor's Name

Lorraine Bahrick

Second Advisor's Committee Title

Committee member

Third Advisor's Name

Angela Laird

Third Advisor's Committee Title

Committee member

Fourth Advisor's Name

Robert Lickliter

Fourth Advisor's Committee Title

Committee member

Fifth Advisor's Name

Robert Laird

Fifth Advisor's Committee Title

Committee member


diffusion-weighted imaging, development, literacy, children

Date of Defense



The development of fluent reading requires coordinated development of key fiber pathways. While several fiber pathways have been implicated in reading, including the recently re-identified vertical occipital fasciculus (VOF), inferior longitudinal fasciculus (ILF), arcuate fasciculus and its 3 components, and inferior fronto-occipital fasciculus (IFOF), whether these fiber pathways support reading in young children with little to no exposure to print remains poorly understood. Consequently, over the course of three studies, the current dissertation aimed to narrow this research gap by addressing the following research questions: 1) Which fiber pathways support early literacy skill in young children 5-10 years old? 2) Are microstructural properties of these tracts predictive of age-related changes in reading across an interval of two years? 3) Do different components of the recently identified VOF differentially support reading? To answer these questions, we used diffusion-weighted imaging to measure white-matter development and to relate the microstructural properties of each fiber pathway to early literacy and literacy development. We report several novel findings that contribute to our growing understanding of the white matter connections supporting early literacy and literacy. For the first time, these studies revealed that the re-identified VOF can be reliably tracked in young children, bilaterally and is composed of three main components, which project from occipital temporal sulcus to angular, and middle and superior occipital gyri. We also found that the left AF, bilateral ILF, and particular components of the VOF play a role in early literacy and literacy development. Implications for contemporary models of reading development are discussed.





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