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Developmental dyslexia is characterized by a phonological processing deficit and impaired low-level auditory processing may contribute to this problem. However, this remains controversial because not all dyslexic individuals show psychophysical deficits on auditory processing tasks; hence it has been argued that auditory processing deficits are not a causal factor in dyslexia. Because behavioral psychophysical tasks include both bottom-up processing and top-down strategies, dyslexics' successful coping strategies may positively influence their performance on auditory behavioral measures. Therefore we have studied whether dyslexics who perform adequately on auditory psychophysical tasks nevertheless show electrophysiological evidence of impaired auditory processing. We compared auditory event-related mismatch negativity (MMN) potentials to frequency modulated (FM) tones at 5, 20 and 240 Hz between dyslexic adults and controls. Groups were matched for age, cognitive ability and psychophysical FM detection thresholds. The dyslexic group showed significantly smaller MMNs in the 20 Hz FM condition in both the early (150-300 ms, P=0.010) and late (300-500 ms, P=0.049) time frames. A 2-way ANOVA showed a significant group by FM rate interaction (P=0.012). There were no significant differences between the groups in the 5 Hz or 240 Hz conditions. The magnitude of the 20 Hz FM MMN correlated with the degree of discrepancy between cognitive and literacy skills (0.66, P=0.003) in the entire group. Thus, even among compensated dyslexics with above-average cognitive abilities and adequate performance on auditory psychophysical tasks, the MMN responses of some dyslexic adults were found to be abnormal.

Original publication




Journal article


Brain Res

Publication Date





190 - 199


Adult, Analysis of Variance, Cognition, Dyslexia, Educational Status, Evoked Potentials, Auditory, Female, Hearing, Humans, Male, Reference Values, Wechsler Scales