The role of audio-visual integration in the relationship between rhythm and reading skill

The role of audio-visual integration in the relationship between rhythm and reading skill

First Author: Anna Levy -- UCSF
Additional authors/chairs: 
Marium Yusufzie; Jessica Younger; Theodore Zanto; Adam Gazzaley
Keywords: Grapheme-phoneme correspondences, Rhythm perception, Reading Ability
Abstract / Summary: 

Purpose: Rhythmic abilities have shown positive relations with reading development, particularly phonological awareness and decoding. One hypothesized reason for this relationship is that rhythmic ability often requires multisensory integration and audio-visual integration is key to grasping sound-symbol relationships in reading. However, this hypothesis has not been specifically tested in typical readers.

Methods: Here, we assessed 24 11-12 years old students on sight- and pseudo-word reading fluency, and rhythmic ability. We assessed rhythmic ability across several modalities: auditory only, visual only, or simultaneous audio-visual stimuli. Rhythmic ability was defined by the average offset between the target time and participant response time. We related reading scores to rhythmic ability across the three modalities as well as an audio-visual integration score, measuring the benefit in rhythmic ability from simultaneous audio-visual stimuli compared to unimodal stimuli (either audio or visual).

Results: We found that sight word reading was not related to rhythmic ability, regardless of stimulus type. Pseudoword reading skill, however, was significantly related to rhythmic skill, but only with simultaneous audio-visual stimuli. Further underscoring the relationship between audio-visual integration in rhythmic processing and sound-symbol integration in reading, greater pseudoword reading skill was positively associated with the degree of benefit from dual input compared to unimodal input.

Conclusion: In typical readers, the audio-visual integration skills required by rhythmic ability is most sensitive to individual differences in pseudoword reading skill. As such, assessments of rhythmic skill that include stimuli with both audio and visual information are likely to be most predictive of sound-symbol integration difficulties in struggling readers.