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article imageWhere does dyslexia begin in the brain?

By Tim Sandle     Jan 27, 2017 in Science
Scientists think they have identified the point in the brain where dyslexia begins. It is hoped the insight gained will help to develop improved treatment options for those with the comprehension disorder.
The research has come from a consortium of scientists from Boston University, Sargent College, MIT and Massachusetts General Hospital, and it focussed on the human brain.
Dyslexia is a Latin phrase which translates into modern English as “bad words”. It refers to a disorder that affects the ability to read well, comprehend written materials and to spell and write properly. The condition accounts for the majority of the population who have poor reading skills. The division between men and women is even. Although it is thought be genetic there is a higher correlation between those with dyslexia and those who live in poverty.
The term does not apply to those who could previously read and then lose this ability (this is alexia). There are no treatments for dyslexia that are completely effective. Treatment involves adjusting teaching methods to meet the person's needs, which helps to decrease the degree of symptoms.
In terms of the cause, the researchers have been studying a brain process called rapid neural adaptation. This describes how the brain responds to sensory cues about the surrounding environment. The brain processes the information via rapid neural adaptation. According to the lead researcher, Professor Tyler Perrachione, dyslexia is related to this adaptation.
To arrive at this, the scientists studied a volunteer group without dyslexia. The group were given a task that involved pair spoken words with images on a screen while undergoing a functional magnetic resonance image scans. It was noted, according to Laboratory Roots, when each of the words were spoken by the same voice, the subject’s brain activity showed an initial spike; and after this it stayed constant. For a second round, when words were spoken by a different voice, brain activity again spiked. This occurred with each new voice.
When the task was repeated using subjects with dyslexia, their brains were almost in a constant state of activity. This inferred the brain needed to work far harder to process words. Similar effects were seen when the studies were repeated using words and pictures. Given no specific area of the brain is involved with reading, the findings point towards a spectrum of stimuli to the brain.
The research has been published in the science journal Neuron. The research paper is “Dysfunction of Rapid Neural Adaptation in Dyslexia.”
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