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Brain development and puberty may be key factors in learning disorders

haracteristics that have been observed to be abnormal in individuals with learning problems," said Wright.

What she and Zecker are proposing is a very testable hypothesis that can be applied to a wide range of existing data. "If people start finding more evidence consistent with this hypothesis it will dramatically change the way we study learning problems," Wright said. "Scientists will design experiments that examine subjects of varied ages in order to determine the developmental course of the characteristic they are studying."

Wright and Zecker's research also lends credence to what scientists using MRI and other techniques have discovered about the activity in the teenage brain. Until recently, it was thought that the brain was fully developed relatively early in childhood. Today it is clear that the teenage brain is a formidable work-in-progress undergoing myriad changes.

"If our hypothesis is correct, it suggests a strong need for early intervention and a potential for improving the abilities of individuals with learning difficulties," said Wright. "With early identification of children with language-related learning disabilities, we may be able to remediate many of these problems by 'training' a child's brain very early in life."


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Contact: Wendy Leopold
w-leopold@northwestern.edu
847-491-4890
Northwestern University
21-Jun-2004


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