How Does iReadMore Therapy Change the Reading Network of Patients with Central Alexia?
Kerry SJ., Aguilar OM., Penny W., Crinion JT., Leff AP., Woodhead ZVJ.
Central alexia (CA) is an acquired reading disorder co-occurring with a generalized language deficit (aphasia). The roles of perilesional and ipsilesional tissue in recovery from poststroke aphasia are unclear. We investigated the impact of reading training (using iReadMore, a therapy app) on the connections within and between the right and left hemisphere of the reading network of patients with CA. In patients with pure alexia, iReadMore increased feedback from left inferior frontal gyrus (IFG) region to the left occipital (OCC) region. We aimed to identify whether iReadMore therapy was effective through a similar mechanism in patients with CA. Participants with chronic poststroke CA (n = 23) completed 35 h of iReadMore training over 4 weeks. Reading accuracy for trained and untrained words was assessed before and after therapy. The neural response to reading trained and untrained words in the left and right OCC, ventral occipitotemporal, and IFG regions was examined using event-related magnetoencephalography. The training-related modulation in effective connectivity between regions was modeled at the group level with dynamic causal modeling. iReadMore training improved participants' reading accuracy by an average of 8.4% (range, -2.77 to 31.66) while accuracy for untrained words was stable. Training increased regional sensitivity in bilateral frontal and occipital regions, and strengthened feedforward connections within the left hemisphere. Our data suggest that iReadMore training in these patients modulates lower-order visual representations, as opposed to higher-order, more abstract representations, to improve word-reading accuracy.SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT This is the first study to conduct a network-level analysis of therapy effects in participants with poststroke central alexia. When patients trained with iReadMore (a multimodal, behavioral, mass practice, computer-based therapy), reading accuracy improved by an average 8.4% on trained items. A network analysis of the magnetoencephalography data associated with this improvement revealed an increase in regional sensitivity in bilateral frontal and occipital regions and strengthening of feedforward connections within the left hemisphere. This indicates that in patients with CA iReadMore engages lower-order, intact resources within the left hemisphere (posterior to their lesion locations) to improve word reading. This provides a foundation for future research to investigate reading network modulation in different CA subtypes, or for sentence-level therapy.