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Researchers identify the neural structures associated with poor reading skills

I'm a little late to this because of yesterday's Nobel announcement, but a new Stanford study shows that brain scans can distinguish the neural differences between children with strong reading skill and those who struggle. The findings, say researchers, could help shape reading lessons for pre-elementary children by tailoring them to youngsters' needs.

In the study (subscription required), neuroscientists examined the cognitive, language and reading skills of children aged 7 to 15 over a three-year period. They also conducted MRI scans of participants' brains annually during that period. According to a Stanford release, results showed:

In each case, the rate of development (measured by fractional anisotropy, or FA) in the white matter regions of the brain, which are associated with reading, accurately predicted their test scores.

Specifically, children with above-average reading skills exhibit an FA value in two types of nerve bundles – the left hemisphere arcuate fasciculus and the left hemisphere inferior longitudinal fasciculus – that is initially low, but increases over time. Children with lower reading skills initially have a high FA, but it declines over time.

Further down Jason D. Yeatman, a doctoral candidate in psychology at Stanford and lead study author, comments on how the findings could be used in developing early screening methods:

Once we have an accurate model relating the maturation of the brain's reading circuitry to children's acquisition of reading skills, and once we understand which factors are beneficial, I really think it will be possible to develop early intervention protocols for children who are poor readers, and tailor individualized lesson plans to emphasize good development ... Over the next five to 10 years, that's what we're really hoping to do.

Previously: Imaging study shows little difference between poor readers with low IQ and poor readers with high IQStanford study furthers understanding of reading disorders and Researchers use brain imaging to predict which dyslexics will learn to read
Photo by United Way of Massachusetts Bay & Merrimack Valley

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