Treatment helps dyslexics significantly improve reading, shows brain changes as children learn

A novel treatment for dyslexia not only helps children to significantly improve their reading skills but also shows that the brain changes as dyslexics learn, according to a study by an interdisciplinary team of University of Washington scientists.

The research, published in the current issue of the Journal of Neuroradiology, also provides new evidence that dyslexia is a treatable brain-based disorder, according to neurophysicist Todd Richards and neuropsychologist Virginia Berninger, who headed the UW research team. Dyslexia, which is a reading disorder and the most common learning disability, affects an estimated 5 percent to 15 percent of children. Contrary to popular myth, the hallmarks of the disorder are subtle deficits in oral language processing of the sounds of the language, not reversal of letters.

"We want to make it very clear that we didn't cure dyslexia, but we think we effectively treated it," said Berninger. "Because of differences in their brains, the boys in our study will need additional educational treatment if they are to continue developing their reading skills. There are no quick fixes or magic bullets for curing dyslexia."

Richards and Berninger said the new study is the first in a line of research that will explore the degree to which the brain affects ease of learning and, in turn, is affected by specific educational interventions. They expect this kind of research will build a foundation that educators can draw upon to improve the accountability of teaching practices.

"Some children learn to read easier than others, and unless there is real brain damage, the brain will change as children learn," said Berninger. Dyslexia is not brain damage. There are just differences in the wiring of the brain for those parts that are involved in reading. There is no such thing as a perfect brain. Any brain probably has structural anomalies. With appropriate instruction, dyslexic brains may become more efficient at processing the

Contact: Joel Schwarz
University of Washington

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