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January 1996

Dyscalculia and Dyslexia After Right Hemisphere Injury in Infancy

Author Affiliations

From the Division of Neurosurgery (Dr Levin and Mss Martinkowski and Winslow), Department of Pediatrics (Dr Scheller), University of Maryland Medical System, Baltimore, Md; and Cognitive Neuroscience Section, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Md (Drs Rickard, Grafman, and Mirvis).

Arch Neurol. 1996;53(1):88-96. doi:10.1001/archneur.1996.00550010108024

Objective:  To use the findings from neuropsychological evaluation and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to assess interhemispheric reorganization of function after early unilateral brain injury.

Design and Methods:  The study focused on one case of early brain injury that resulted in both dyscalculia and dyslexia. Brain injury was studied using both structural and fMRI. Intellectual function was evaluated using the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children, Third Edition, while visuospatial skills were assessed using the Block Design subtest of the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children, Third Edition, and Judgment of Line Orientation subtest. The Selective Reminding Test and the Recurring Figures Test were used to evaluate memory and orientation; language and speech skills were evaluated using the Boston Naming Test, Controlled Oral Word Association, Gates-MacGinitie Reading Test, and color naming. Various methods were used to study arithmetic skills, including the Wide Range Achievement Test—Revised and the Peabody Individual Achievement Test. The control group for fMRI consisted of nine normal subjects.

Setting:  Neuropsychological laboratory in primary care hospital.

Patient:  A 17-year-old boy who had sustained a closed head injury associated with a partially depressed, right parietal skull fracture, and right temporal hemorrhage in a motor vehicle crash at age 7 months (November 9, 1977). Subsequent social behavior was normal, but the patient had difficulty throughout school in mathematics and spelling and was characterized as having a "short attention span."

Intervention:  None.

Main Outcome Measures:  Standardized tests of arithmetic and reading supplemented by an assessment of calculation and quantitative skills. While performing calculations, fMRI disclosed predominantly left hemisphere activation involving the frontal and posterior parietal regions, whereas this task produced bilateral activation of the supramarginal gyrus in seven of nine normal subjects.

Results:  Neuropsychological findings confirmed the presence of dyscalculia and dyslexia despite normal intellectual functioning. Visuospatial skills ranged from the low normal to average level. The fMRI findings were consistent with early interhemispheric transfer of visuospatial skills normally committed to the right parietal area to the left parietal region. The patient's dyscalculia and reading ability raise a question of acquired left parietal dysfunction as a consequence of the competition between verbal and visuospatial functions for left hemisphere representation.

Conclusion:  Interhemispheric reorganization of function may be bidirectional rather than a feature unique to the left hemisphere substrate for language.

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