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Rutgers researcher: Brains in dyslexic children can be 'rewired' to improve reading skills

(NEWARK) In a scientific first, researchers have shown that the brains of dyslexic children can be "rewired" through intensive remedial training to function more like those found in normal readers.

Paula Tallal, Board of Governors Professor of Neuroscience at Rutgers-Newark, and other members of a multi-university research team used brain-imaging scans of dyslexic children to demonstrate that areas of the brain critical to reading skills became activated for the first time and began to function more normally after only eight weeks of special training. In addition, other regions of the brain also lit up on the functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scans in a compensatory process that the dyslexics may have used as they learned to read more fluently.

The researchers' groundbreaking findings were published Feb. 24 by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Early Edition. The other authors include faculty from Stanford and Cornell universities, the University of California's Los Angeles and San Francisco campuses, and one of the co-founders of Oakland-based Scientific Learning Corporation.

Dyslexia, sometimes called "word blindness," is a disorder that affects 5 to 10 percent of Americans, and is characterized by difficulties in processing language. Usually these problems are severe enough to interfere with performance in school, but they cannot be attributed to a poor education, personal motivation, or impaired sight or hearing.

The investigators, working at Stanford, extensively used Fast ForWord Language, a computer program designed by Tallal and other researchers at Scientific Learning Corporation. The program focuses on helping children become more adept at processing the rapidly changing sounds inside words. A dyslexic child may, for example, have difficulties distinguishing between letters that rhyme, such as B and D.

"If you hear the sound 'ba' in 'butter' and 'da' in 'Doug,' the only way we know the
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Contact: Michael Sutton
msutton@andromeda.rutgers.edu
973-353-5262
Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey
4-Mar-2003


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