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Reading Remediation Seems to Rewire the Brain
Date:2/26/2010

Study findings could have implications for autism, stroke and other conditions

FRIDAY, Feb. 26 (HealthDay News) -- Scientists studying the anatomy of children's brains during reading discovered something rather unexpected: Remedial training for poor readers results in a growth of white matter tracts in the brain, and the increase correlates with the level of improvement in sounding out words.

"This is the first evidence for an increase in white matter in response to a remedial behavioral intervention," said lead author Marcel Just, a psychology professor at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh and director of its Center for Cognitive Brain Imaging. "It provides evidence that repeated cognitive exercises can alter the cortical connectivity of the human brain."

The finding could have potential beyond enhancing reading ability. If a behavioral intervention can cause brain growth, benefits might be reflected in any number of brain conditions, including autism, stroke, multiple sclerosis and traumatic brain injury, experts say.

"The evidence is mounting that the brain is wired to fix itself in so many ways," said Dr. Thomas Insel, director of the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health. "This study bridges the divide between psychology and biology in showing how the brain responds to a cognitive challenge. We need to make use of this information and figure out ways to treat neurological conditions."

Collecting and measuring real-time images of the working brain in poor and good readers led Just and his colleagues to identify a decrease in the white matter fibers in the poor readers compared with good readers. The area of interest is in the left frontal lobe, which governs language.

The poor readers received 100 hours of training to improve their reading skills and comprehension.

The remedial intervention actually changed the anatomy of the brain, the researchers reported recen
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