Unraveling the roots of dyslexia

March 12, 2009

By peering into the brains of people with dyslexia compared to normal readers, a study published online on March 12th in Current Biology, a Cell Press publication, has shed new light on the roots of the learning disability, which affects four to ten percent of the population. The findings support the notion that the reading and spelling deficit—characterized by an inability to break words down into the separate sounds that comprise them—stems in part from a failure to properly integrate letters with their speech sounds.

"The with in the study had enough reading experience to match letters and their correctly," said Vera Blau of the University of Maastricht, The Netherlands "Still, the results show that the way their brain integrates letters and speech sounds is very different from normal readers. It's quite astonishing."

The researchers examined activity in the brains of dyslexic and normal adult readers by using () as they were presented with letters, speech sounds, or a matching or non-matching combination of the two. While undergoing that task, dyslexic adults showed lower activation of a brain region known as the superior temporal cortex than the more typical readers did.

The findings point to a neural deficit in letter-speech sound integration as a fundamental mechanism that might distinguish poor from good readers, Blau said. Such a difficulty in integrating the most basic units of written and spoken language could offer a promising link between well-documented difficulties in processing the sounds of language (phonology) and the actual reading problem itself, she added.

Her team, led by Leo Blomert at the University of Maastricht, is currently conducting further studies in children as they are learning to read to help identify whether the difficulty to integrate letters with speech sounds begins in early school years and whether it comes before or after deficits in processing the sounds of language.

In addition to enhancing scientists' fundamental understanding of the disability, the new results might also have some ultimate implications for therapy.
"Our findings may offer a way to validate intervention strategies and narrow down the best training approaches," Blau said. Indeed, in a new series of studies, the group is investigating whether training strategies focused on phonological skills as well as letter-sound associations improve reading skills by changing activity levels in the brain of dyslexic readers.

Source: Cell Press (news : web)

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not rated yet Mar 12, 2009
My husband and I are both dyslexic. I'm very high functioning, with the ability to read and write virtually unimpaired. I have great difficulty processing speech, and dealing with left/right motor confusion (I send the signal to the correct side, it ends up on the other.) I can read and write upside down, backwards, mirrored, etc., and made my living as a draftsman for a number of years, but have to really work to verbally give directions because I can "see" what I need to say, but can't say it. However, I can very easily give the same directions in writing - in fact, I made my living as a technical writer for years as well!

He is an excellent auditory learner, no problems processing speech whatsoever. His issue is visual when it comes to reading; he says the letters jump about on the page. He has no motor issues, left/right confusion, or difficulty giving directions.

If it was just a matter of difficulty in integrating letters with speech sounds, I *should not* be able to read and write effortlessly at a professional level, and my husband *should* !
not rated yet Mar 12, 2009
True but the study itself is a basic analysis at the regions of dyslexia. Even if you two can function relatively well under dyslexia, it means nothing if the roots aren't understood. Although your comment might show that there are different classes of dyslexia, and actions the brain does under it.

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