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Sound training rewires dyslexic children's brains for reading
Date:10/30/2007

Some children with dyslexia struggle to read because their brains aren't properly wired to process fast-changing sounds, according to a brain-imaging study published this month in the journal Restorative Neurology and Neuroscience (online October 16). The study found that sound training via computer exercises can literally rewire children's brains, correcting the sound processing problem and improving reading. According to the study's first author, Nadine Gaab, PhD, of the Laboratory of Cognitive Neuroscience at Children's Hospital Boston, the finding may someday help clinicians diagnose dyslexia even before reading begins, and suggests new ways of treating dyslexia, such as musical training.

Children with developmental dyslexia confuse letters and syllables when they read. The idea that they may have an underlying problem processing sound was introduced by Paula Tallal, PhD, of Rutgers University in the 1970s, but it has never been tested using brain imaging. Gaab used functional MRI imaging (fMRI) to examine how the brains of 9- to 12-year old children with developmental dyslexia, and normal readers, responded to sounds, both before and after using educational software called Fast ForWord Language, designed in part by Tallal, a co-author on the study.

Gaab first tested how the children's brains responded to two types of sounds: fast-changing and slow-changing. These sounds were not language, but resembled vocal patterns found in speech. As Gaab watched using brain fMRI, the children listened to the sounds through headphones. The fast-changing sounds changed in pitch or other acoustic qualities quicklyover tens of millisecondsas in normal speech. By contrast, slow-changing sounds changed over only hundreds of milliseconds.

In typical readers, 11 brain areas became more active when the children listened to fast-changing, compared to slow-changing, sounds. Gaab set this as "normal." In dyslexic children, the fast-chan
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Contact: James Newton
james.newton@childrens.harvard.edu
617-919-3110
Children's Hospital Boston  
Source:Eurekalert

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