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 Article of Interest - Dyslexia

Brain scans can detect dyslexia, showing root of reading problem
By Robert Lee Hotz, Los Angeles Times, August 3, 2002

Original URL: http://www.bayarea.com/mld/mercurynews/news/nation/3777584.htm
 

For those who struggle with dyslexia, a reading problem that confounds one in five Americans, the written word is a misfire in the mind.

Indeed, a lifetime of reading problems can be traced to a distinctive flaw in the brain that makes the mind strain and stumble over written words. That telltale signature of dyslexia now can be detected reliably in brain scans of children as young as 7, researchers discovered.

In the largest brain-imaging study so far of children with reading problems, Yale University researchers determined that the act of reading prompted different patterns of mental effort in children with dyslexia, compared with those who read more easily.

Their work is the latest study to reveal that reading challenges the brain in subtle and disconcerting ways, all involving a complex network of neural circuits called into action every time the mind encounters a word on the page.

The scans showed that people with dyslexia have a much lower level of activity in areas at the back of the brain thought to be responsible for quickly matching words, sounds and meaning, compared with normal readers.

Moreover, the pattern of activity in neural circuits that handle the written word was the same as previously detected in adults with dyslexia, who have wrestled with the written word for a lifetime.

``We know now that this disruption is not due simply to a lifetime of poor reading because we see it in children as young as age 7,'' said Dr. Sally Shaywitz, director of the Yale University Center for Learning and Attention and a co-author of the study published July 15 in the research journal Biological Psychiatry.

``The disruption is right there from the time they are beginning to read,'' she said.

The results are noteworthy, several reading experts said, because they encompass so many children.

``This is the first study, not just in dyslexia but in any cognitive aspect of the brain, that has used a sample so large,'' said Guinevere Eden, director of the Georgetown University Center for the Study of Learning in Washington, D.C.

University of Southern California psychologist Franklin Manis, who is leading a five-year, $1.8 million study of reading problems and the brain involving several hundred children, called the findings ``striking.'' They offer confirmation of evidence that reading disorders such as dyslexia, which affect as many as 8 million children ages 4 to 13, are caused by subtle problems in brain cells and synapses, not by any lack of intellectual ability or motivation.

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