Theory-driven classification of reading difficulties from fMRI data using Bayesian latent-mixture models

Noam Siegelman*, Mark R. van den Bunt, Jason Chor Ming Lo, Jay G. Rueckl, Kenneth R. Pugh

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Decades of research have led to several competing theories regarding the neural contributors to impaired reading. But how can we know which theory (or theories) identifies the types of markers that indeed differentiate between individuals with reading disabilities (RD) and their typically developing (TD) peers? To answer this question, we propose a new analytical tool for theory evaluation and comparison, grounded in the Bayesian latent-mixture modeling framework. We start by constructing a series of latent-mixture classification models, each reflecting one existing theoretical claim regarding the neurofunctional markers of RD (highlighting network-level differences in either mean activation, inter-subject heterogeneity, inter-region variability, or connectivity). Then, we run each model on fMRI data alone (i.e., while models are blind to participants' behavioral status), which enables us to interpret the fit between a model's classification of participants and their behavioral (known) RD/TD status as an estimate of its explanatory power. Results from n=127 adolescents and young adults (RD: n=59; TD: n=68) show that models based on network-level differences in mean activation and heterogeneity failed to differentiate between TD and RD individuals. In contrast, classifications based on variability and connectivity were significantly associated with participants' behavioral status. These findings suggest that differences in inter-region variability and connectivity may be better network-level markers of RD than mean activation or heterogeneity (at least in some populations and tasks). More broadly, the results demonstrate the promise of latent-mixture modeling as a theory-driven tool for evaluating different theoretical claims regarding neural contributors to language disorders and other cognitive traits.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number118476
StatePublished - 15 Nov 2021
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021


  • Bayesian modeling
  • Latent-mixture modeling
  • Neurofunctional markers
  • Reading
  • Reading disabilities
  • fMRI data analysis


Dive into the research topics of 'Theory-driven classification of reading difficulties from fMRI data using Bayesian latent-mixture models'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this