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Dyslexia's Brain Changes May Occur Before Kids Learn to Read
Date:1/23/2012

First, they were asked to listen to a male or female voice uttering a single word twice and then indicate if the two words sounded the same. Next, they listened to a pairing of words and were asked to indicate if the gender of the voice uttering each successive word was the same.

Throughout the testing, the children also underwent functional MRI (fMRI) to monitor their brain activity, with particular focus on two regions of the rear, left brain: the bilateral occipitotemporal and left temporoparietal areas. Both have previously been shown to have a role in dyslexia.

The results: Children in the at-risk group were found to have reduced brain activity in the two key brain areas, compared to their peers with similar age and IQ who did not have family risk factors.

In addition, the research team found that among at-risk pre-reading children there was no evidence of activity increases in key frontal lobe brain regions previously linked to dyslexia. This, they said, suggested that the brain's method for trying to compensate for the problems associated with dyslexia does not appear to be set in motion until after children begin to read.

"Early identification of children at risk in kindergarten or even before then offers a chance to reduce the clinical, psychological and social implications of reading disability/dyslexia," Gaab said. "Identifying early predictors will also help educators, parents and scientists to find ways to support the academic and cognitive development of children with reading disability/dyslexia and may also lead to strategies that will reduce the severity of reading disability."

Guinevere Eden, director of the Center for the Study of Learning and a professor of pediatrics at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., expressed enthusiasm for what she deemed to be "the first study of its kind."

"The question has always been, are these physiological changes the result of dyslexia or are they there to begin wi
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