Neurobiological Underpinnings of Math and Reading Learning Disabilities

Sarit Ashkenazi, Jessica M. Black, Daniel A. Abrams, Fumiko Hoeft, Vinod Menon*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

95 Scopus citations


The primary goal of this review is to highlight current research and theories describing the neurobiological basis of math (MD), reading (RD), and comorbid math and reading disability (MD+RD). We first describe the unique brain and cognitive processes involved in acquisition of math and reading skills, emphasizing similarities and differences in each domain. Next we review functional imaging studies of MD and RD in children, integrating relevant theories from experimental psychology and cognitive neuroscience to characterize the functional neuroanatomy of cognitive dysfunction in MD and RD. We then review recent research on the anatomical correlates of MD and RD. Converging evidence from morphometry and tractography studies are presented to highlight distinct patterns of white matter pathways which are disrupted in MD and RD. Finally, we examine how the intersection of MD and RD provides a unique opportunity to clarify the unique and shared brain systems which adversely impact learning and skill acquisition in MD and RD, and point out important areas for future work on comorbid learning disabilities.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)549-569
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Learning Disabilities
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 2013
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: Supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health (HD047520, HD059205, K23HD054720, and F32DC010322).


  • comorbidity
  • learning disabilities
  • neurobiological


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