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Carnegie Mellon brain imaging study illustrates how remedial instruction helps poor readers
Date:6/11/2008

Just as a disciplined exercise regimen helps human muscles become stronger and perform better, specialized workouts for the brain can boost cognitive skills, according to Carnegie Mellon scientists. Their new brain imaging study of poor readers found that 100 hours of remedial instruction reading calisthenics, of sorts, aimed to shore up problem areas not only improved the skills of struggling readers, but also changed the way their brains activated when they comprehended written sentences.

The results may pave the way to a new era of neuro-education.

Carnegie Mellon researchers say poor readers initially have less activation in the parietotemporal area of the brain, which is the region responsible for decoding the sounds of written language and assembling them into words and phrases that make up a sentence, than do good readers. However, remedial instruction increases the struggling readers' activation to near normal levels.

This also was the first brain imaging study in which children were tested on their understanding of the meanings of sentences, not just on their recognition of single words.

"This study demonstrates how the plasticity of the human brain can work for the benefit of remedial learning," says neuroscientist Marcel Just, director of Carnegie Mellon's Center for Cognitive Brain Imaging (CCBI), and senior author of the new study currently available on the Web site of the journal Neuropsychologia. "We are at the beginning of a new era of neuro-education."

The poor readers worked in groups of three for an hour a day with a reading "personal trainer," a teacher specialized in administering a remedial reading program. The training included both word decoding exercises in which students were asked to recognize the word in its written form and tasks in using reading comprehension strategies. The poor readers were 25 fifth-graders taken from a stratified sample from schools in Allegheny County
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Contact: Kelli McElhinny
kellim@andrew.cmu.edu
412-268-6094
Carnegie Mellon University
Source:Eurekalert

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