Phonological dyslexia and dysgraphia: Cognitive mechanisms and neural substrates

Steven Z. Rapcsak, Pélagie M. Beeson, Maya L. Henry, Anne Leyden, Esther Kim, Kindle Rising, Sarah Andersen, Hye Suk Cho

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

141 Scopus citations


To examine the validity of different theoretical assumptions about the neuropsychological mechanisms and lesion correlates of phonological dyslexia and dysgraphia, we studied written and spoken language performance in a large cohort of patients with focal damage to perisylvian cortical regions implicated in phonological processing. Despite considerable variation in accuracy for both words and non-words, the majority of participants demonstrated the increased lexicality effects in reading and spelling that are considered the hallmark features of phonological dyslexia and dysgraphia. Increased lexicality effects were also documented in spoken language tasks such as oral repetition, and patients performed poorly on a battery of phonological tests that did not involve an orthographic component. Furthermore, a composite measure of general phonological ability was strongly predictive of both reading and spelling accuracy, and we obtained evidence that the continuum of severity that characterized the written language disorder of our patients was attributable to an underlying continuum of phonological impairment. Although patients demonstrated qualitatively similar deficits across measures of written and spoken language processing, there were quantitative differences in levels of performance reflecting task difficulty effects. Spelling was more severely affected than reading by the reduction in phonological capacity and this differential vulnerability accounted for occasional disparities between patterns of impairment on the two written language tasks. Our findings suggest that phonological dyslexia and dysgraphia in patients with perisylvian lesions are manifestations of a central or modality-independent phonological deficit rather than the result of damage to cognitive components dedicated to reading or spelling. Our results also provide empirical support for shared-components models of written language processing, according to which the same central cognitive systems support both reading and spelling. Lesion-deficit correlations indicated that phonological dyslexia and dysgraphia may be produced by damage to a variety of perisylvian cortical regions, consistent with distributed network models of phonological processing.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)575-591
Number of pages17
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2009


  • Perisylvian cortex
  • Phonological deficit
  • Phonological dyslexia/dysgraphia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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