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Short-term dyslexia treatment strengthens key brain regions

ST. PAUL, MN After only three weeks of reading instruction, brain scans in children with dyslexia develop activation patterns that match those of normal readers, according to a new study published in the July 22 issue of Neurology, the scientific journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

These findings indicate that children with dyslexia use the same regions of their brains as other readers, and that specialized instruction can rapidly compensate for some types of reading deficits.

Dyslexic children in this study had above average intelligence but scored approximately 30 percent lower than average on standard reading tests. The dyslexic children and a group of good readers of the same age underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to map their brain activation patterns during two types of reading tests. The children with dyslexia then received a three-week training program based on principles outlined by the National Reading Panel (http://www.nationalreadingpanel.org), convened by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. Both groups of children then underwent a second brain scan. The experiment was conducted during the summer, to avoid confounding effects from school instruction.

The reading tests during the brain scan measured the ability of the children to decide whether certain letter combinations could stand for certain sounds (for example, could "ow" and "oa" make the same sound?) and whether certain letter patterns in words created meaningful relationships between words (for example, does the "er" in "builder" make it related to the word "build"? does the "er" in "corner" make it related to the word "corn"?). Both skills are key elements of the reading process.

Both dyslexic children and normal readers used the same specific parts of their brains to perform these tasks, says lead study author Elizabeth Aylward, PhD, with the department of r
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Contact: Marilee Reu
mreu@aan.com
651-695-2789
American Academy of Neurology
21-Jul-2003


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