Decoding Dyslexia

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Reading and dyslexia illustrate the rich tension between nature and nurture. Reading is a learned skill; no one is born reading. But learning to read relies on inborn human capacities for language and speech. And dyslexia is a genetic condition that compromises these brain networks.

Yet laypeople are convinced that dyslexia results from “troubles with vision. And these errors matter. A parent who holds these views might fail to recognize her child’s difficulties with rhymes and pig Latin (both require phonemic awareness) as warning signs.

scientific american

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Learning disabilities are a connection problem

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Different learning difficulties do not correspond to specific regions of the brain, as previously thought, say researchers at the University of Cambridge. Instead, poor connectivity between ‘hubs’ within the brain is much more strongly related to children’s difficulties.

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Online Dyslexia screening

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People taking the Dystech test supply a date of birth and email before being presented with a series of words on the screen. Users then repeat the words aloud with the audio being recorded for analysis.

The test, available through a mobile app or in the browser, takes around 10 minutes to complete.

The audio is automatically analysed by the algorithm to determine the likelihood of dyslexia. While the test can’t provide a diagnosis and Dystech does not offer medical advice, Richard says it returns a percentage likelihood of dyslexia as well as metrics on reading reaction time and average reading time.

The results can give an indication if users should seek an official diagnosis – currently only able to be provided by a psychologist.

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Brain stimulation may help

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Restoring normal patterns of rhythmic neural activity through non-invasive electrical stimulation of the brain alleviates sound-processing deficits and improves reading accuracy in adults with dyslexia, according to a new study.

PLOS. “Brain stimulation reduces dyslexia deficits.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 8 September 2020.

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Visual perception is key

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Visual perception has been found to be a critical factor for reading comprehension and arithmetic computation in separate lines of research with different measures of visual form perception. The current study of 1099 Chinese elementary school students investigated whether the same visual form perception (assessed by a geometric figure matching task) underlies both reading comprehension and arithmetic computation. The results showed that visual form perception had close relations with both reading comprehension and arithmetic computation, even after controlling for age, gender, and cognitive factors such as processing speed, attention, working memory, visuo-spatial processing, and general intelligence. 

Cui J, Zhang Y, Wan S, Chen C, Zeng J, Zhou X. Visual form perception is fundamental for both reading comprehension and arithmetic computation. Cognition. 2019;189:141-154. doi:10.1016/j.cognition.2019.03.014

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Neurology of developmental dyslexia

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Developmental dyslexia was until recently considered to belong solely in the domain of educational psychology. With the advent of better theories on language and reading, and better methods for assessing the structure and function of living human brains and for determining genetic transmission, dyslexia is now poised to become a focal concern of cognitive neuroscience, neurology, and genetic research. Still unresolved are questions relating to how much a reading disability represents a normal variation or a separate pathological entity, and whether the cognitive disorder is primarily cognitive, or secondary to a disorder in early perception. Recent findings from neuroanatomy, neurophysiology, neuropsychology, and genetics research are reviewed. (This review is an updated version of a review first published in Current Opinion In Neurology and Neurosurgery 1992, 5:71-76.)

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Reintroducing Dyslexia: Early Identification and Implications for Pediatric Practice

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Cognitive-behavioral research has revealed that there are early literacy skill deficits that represent red flags for dyslexia risk and can be measured at a preschool age. Altogether, this evidence points to dyslexia as a disorder that can be flagged by a pediatrician before school entry, during a period of heightened brain plasticity when interventions are more likely to be effective. 

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Changing the way we teach dyslectic children

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Dyslexic children are missing out at schools by being put straight in front of books.

Experts have drawn up a petition which they hope will lead to a Government review in early reading instruction.

Learning Matters founder Carla McNeil says all of the foundations skills in letter sounds need to be taught systematically before children go to books and begin reading and writing.

She says dyslexia teaching based on neuroscience research is far more advanced overseas.

“We’re that far behind the game, it is incredibly frustrating.” 

She says they need to be taken in a step by step approach before being introduced to reading and writing.

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Websearch with Dyslexia

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Web search is a key digital literacy skill that can be particularly challenging for people with dyslexia, a common learning disability that affects reading and spelling skills in about 15% of the English-speaking population. In the paper in our link for today, the researchers collected and analyzed eye-tracking, search log, and self-report data from 27 participants (14 with dyslexia) to confirm that searchers with dyslexia struggle with all stages of the search process and have markedly different gaze patterns and search behavior that reflect the strategies used and challenges faced. Based on these findings, they discuss design implications to improve the cognitive accessibility of web search.

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The truth about the role of the cerebellum

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The cerebellum does not affect reading ability in people with dyslexia, according to a study that challenges a controversial theory.

The cerebellum is a brain structure traditionally involved in motor function.

This new study disputes that theory and could lead to improved treatment of dyslexia, according to scientists from Georgetown University Medical Center in Washington, D.C

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Optometris awarded

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 A Holland-area optometrist received national recognition Friday for the progress one of his patients made in optometric vision therapy that allowed him to read easily after years of struggling.

“He really did all the work we told him what to do and he made so much progress,” development optometrist Dr. Neil Renaud said. ”(He) has seen so many hurdles that were in the way for him for reading, like double vision and blurry vision and letters moving on the page, dyslexia, getting lost all the time. He’s enjoying reading now for the first time in his life. … He’s the one who had a life-changing experience that he’s going to carry forever.”

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New research about dyslexia

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New brain imaging research debunks a controversial theory about dyslexia that can impact how it is sometimes treated, Georgetown University Medical Center neuroscientists say.

The cerebellum, a brain structure traditionally considered to be involved in motor function, has been implicated in the reading disability, developmental dyslexia, however, this “cerebellar deficit hypothesis” has always been controversial. The new research shows that the cerebellum is not engaged during reading in typical readers and does not differ in children who have dyslexia.

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Does cursive help dyslexia?

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Cursive’s cheerleaders repeatedly state that cursive cures dyslexia or prevents it, that it makes you pleasant and graceful and intelligent, that it adds brain cells, instills proper etiquette and patriotism, or confers numerous other blessings which are no more prevalent among cursive users than among other humans.

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Crete will use a snazzy system to detect dyslexia

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Crete is about to start using a great new system that monitors eye movements during silent reading tests to produce scores that distinguish typical and atypical readers and combines the expertise of ophthalmologists, pathologists, and social workers to develop personalized therapies.

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Want an earlier diagnosis?

Dyslexia: News from the web:

Work is being done on developing a new test that will give an earlier diagnosis so that students with dyslexia can get support they deserve also earlier. Cardiff Metropolitan University is carrying out trials using new technology to speed up diagnoses for dyslexia. This unique test takes approximately 15 minutes to complete and researchers are looking for more children with a diagnosis to come forward to try out a screening test.

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neural mechanisms of developmental dyslexia

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Neuroscientist Prof. Katharina von Kriegstein from TU Dresden and an international team of experts now show in a recently published study that people with dyslexia have a weakly developed structure that is not located in the cerebral cortex, but at a subcortical processing stage; namely the white matter connectivity between the left auditory motion-sensitive planum temporale (mPT) and the left auditory thalamus (medial geniculate body. MGB).


Original publication: “Reduced structural connectivity between left auditory thalamus and the motion-sensitive planum temporale in developmental dyslexia” Nadja Tschentscher, Anja Ruisinger, Helen Blank, Begoña Díaz and Katharina von Kriegstein: Journal of Neuroscience 14 January 2019, 1435-18; DOI:

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Does telling and re-telling improve writing?

Dyslexia: News from the web:

In new research conducted by Trina Spencer and Douglas Petersen, the hypothesis being tested is if an improvement in oral narration and language would lead to an improvement of writing skills.

The results support the claim that progress in writing can be made in the absence of typical transcription instruction.

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Does dyslexia gene protect against concussions?

Dyslexia: News from the web:

Read the article in the link for today for the outcome of this remarkable research.

Here is a snippet:

“In dyslexia, you tend to have less defined wiring for processing spoken and written language,” Breiter said. “Dyslexics have a problem with that. Their wiring is more diffuse in this system. Future studies could directly test if diffuse wiring is better able to absorb a shock wave than clearly defined wiring.”

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