Can researchers detect dyslexia in children even before they begin to read? It is a possibility, according to research out of MIT. In a study that included MRI scans of pre-school children, scientists identified markers of dyslexia that are present in the brains of adults with the disorder. Although more research is required to conclusively link these brain patterns to dyslexia, researchers are hopeful that these findings could lead to early diagnosis and intervention.
The researchers scanned the brains of 40 pre-school children. After the scan, the children performed some pre-reading tests that involved tasks like sounding out words. They found that children with a smaller arcuate fasciculus had lower scores on the test than their peers. The arcuate fasciculus is the bundle of axons that connects Wernicke’s area (involved in understanding written and spoken language) and Broca’s area (responsible for speech production). The researchers also observed that there was an especially strong correlation between a smaller arcuate fasciculus and very low test scores. A smaller connection between these critical language centers could explain the disconnect that people with dyslexia have between written and spoken language.
More investigation is needed to determine whether a shrunken arcuate fasciculus is a cause or a consequence of dyslexia. The team plans to perform follow up studies to see how the children develop as they progress through school.
Lead researcher, professor John Gabrieli said of the research, “We do not know how many of these children will go on to develop problems. But anyway, we want to intervene before that, and the younger you do that, the better. We already know that reading programmes and interventions can really help.”
This research is published in the Journal of Neuroscience Reports.
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