Showing posts with category Brain Fitness Show all posts >
It’s not exactly news that there’s a relationship between auditory processing skills and reading disorders in children. But with research by scientists such as Elise Temple and Nadine Gaab helping to establish and confirm the connection, the mounting evidence points to just how strong the correlation is—especially for children with dyslexia.
In a recent study by Jane Hornickel and Nina Kraus published in the Journal of Neuroscience, the authors set out to determine whether inconsistency in the brain’s response to speech sounds is correlated with poor reading skills. The study evaluated 100 normal-hearing children from 6 to 12 years of age who were divided into 3 groups—good readers, average readers, and poor readers—based on their fluency scores.
The researchers asked the children to listen to the syllables “ba” and “ga” while measuring the children’s auditory brainstem response. They also measured the children’s brainstem response to a simple clicking sound for comparison.
The authors found that the auditory brainstem response was considerably more variable for poor readers than for good readers, but only when listening to the relatively complex speech sounds—not when listening to the simple click sound. They also found that the inconsistencies in brainstem response were more closely associated with the consonant portion of the syllable than the vowel portion.
The variability in brainstem response occurred intermittently throughout the testing rather than building over time, and was primarily seen among the poor readers rather than all three groups, indicating that neural fatigue was likely not a factor. The authors note that the more likely explanation for the intermittent variability is poor encoding of speech sounds in the brains of the struggling readers.
According to Kraus, it’s this inconsistency of brain response that prevents some children from making the crucial connection of sound to meaning that is the foundation of language and reading skills. Strong readers, on the other hand, typically make the connection with ease. The relationship between reading ability and auditory processing skills, she says, is “a highly significant relationship.”
Distinguishing between consonants can be particularly difficult for children with dyslexia, as this study shows, because they are spoken so much more rapidly than vowels. But consonants typically give meaning to words (think “cat” vs. “bat”), so that missing bit of information can make learning to read enormously difficult. The takeaway is that when children with normal hearing experience reading difficulty, auditory processing plays a role.
Fortunately, our students’ brains are highly adaptable and responsive, enabling dramatic improvements with appropriate intervention. When the auditory processing issues are corrected, children are then able to make the critical sound-to-meaning connections that lead to proficient reading and improved learning all around.
Attend one of our popular webinars with thought leaders in learning. Live and pre-recorded webinars are available. Register today!
This May 17th, we will be hosting our annual Visionary Conference for Fast ForWord Providers entirely online for the very first time.
Save on travel expenses, spend less time away, and learn just as much as in years past—maybe even more.
This year’s theme is Growing Together, and we’re thrilled to announce that our esteemed Visionary Conference presenters Dr. Paula Tallal and Dr. Martha Burns will be sharing exciting new research on the brain and learning.
Dr. Tallal will be reporting on the latest research with college students who used the Fast ForWord program and saw improvements in a number of skill areas.
Dr. Burns will present research from the Human Connectome Project (a project studying the connectivity of the human brain) and research on memory and attention disorders and interventions.
Additional sessions will review the latest Fast ForWord product updates, best practices for getting the most from the products, marketing resources, and professional development opportunities to help you thrive as a Fast ForWord Provider and help more children succeed.
Because this year’s conference is online, we’re welcoming any and all attendees, whether you’re a provider or not! There is no charge for any of the sessions, so you can attend one or attend them all. If you’ve been to past conferences then you already know…It’s the highlight of the year!
Attend one of our popular webinars with thought leaders in learning. Live and pre-recorded webinars are available. Register today!
I remember the early years with my children and the dreams I had for their success. Of course, my dreams and theirs didn’t exactly end up being the same. But what happens when a mother realizes that her dreams for her child may be shattered because that child struggles with auditory processing issues, dyslexia, or other challenges never imagined? That’s exactly what Irene experienced with her daughter, Maria.
Attending school proved difficult for Maria. As she advanced from grade to grade and the work became progressively more difficult, anything presented in auditory form was especially challenging. By sixth grade, Maria had been diagnosed with dyslexia and Auditory Processing Disorder and was labeled with a language impairment.
For obvious reasons, Maria struggled in school. Because of this, she was shy around other students, avoided reading, and required extensive help at home. Her family considered sending her to a private school, but Maria was unable to pass the entrance exams.
By the middle of sixth grade, Maria had attended several different schools and the last was a disaster. It was then that one of her mother’s friends suggested Bridges Academy, a private school that specializes in serving students with learning challenges. Upon enrollment, Maria’s life began to turn in a new direction. When she got into her mother’s car after school she often said, “Mom, they understand me here!”
At Bridges Academy, Maria’s dyslexia and auditory processing issues were analyzed further and the Fast ForWord program was recommended in addition to Maria’s coursework and intervention regimen. Jacky Egli, the Director at Bridges Academy, explained to Maria’s mother that she personally researched every program thoroughly and only used programs that were scientifically based. Irene trusted Jacky and felt it was important to follow her recommendation, so Maria gave Fast ForWord a try.
Maria’s reading level was at least three to four years below grade level when she entered Bridges. She also had struggled in other subjects, because every subject—even math—requires reading. But that soon began to change and, in time, Maria made significant improvements. Maria’s comprehension level increased more than two full grade levels last year. This improvement aligned with her participation in the Fast ForWord Reading and Reading Assistant programs. Over the last 6 years, despite the odds, Maria improved on the Woodcock Reading Mastery Test 7.3 grade levels. Because of this significant improvement, she no longer receives remedial instruction.
Irene sought the best for her daughter and found it in the caring attitude of the staff at Bridges Academy and the innovative programs they use to make a difference for struggling students. “Jacky walks the walk and talks the talk of the school’s mission,” says Irene.
Maria has transformed from a shy, struggling child to a vibrant, engaged student who participates in class, reads aloud to her peers and conducts presentations for content area classes in front of her classmates. She is an ambassador for the school who greets and escorts new students and parents through the campus as she participates in open house and school events.
And, most exciting of all, Maria has been accepted into a local college and is thrilled about rising to meet a challenge and a future that once seemed entirely out of reach.
Attend one of our popular webinars with thought leaders in learning. Live and pre-recorded webinars are available. Register today!
It’s exciting when a child learns to read—combining letters and sounds to form words for the first time until they’re stringing those words together to create sentences. But what happens when a child goes from “getting by” in the early grades to struggling in adolescence when cognitive demand increases along with the difficulty of required texts?
How Adolescent Learning is Different
There are important differences between childhood and adolescent brain function, and developmentally appropriate regression in abilities such as impulse control can affect adolescent learning.
Dr. Martha Burns’ webinar “Reading and the Adolescent Brain: What Works?” provides research-based insights for busy educators interested in the science of adolescent learning. Tune in and discover…
Understanding what’s happening in the adolescent brain can give you the tools to educate your students, support them in their struggles, and provide the help they need to get back on track academically.
Why Reading Interventions Fail
One reason that many reading interventions may not work for the adolescent learner is that they fail to provide the cognitive skills and oral reading practice required for reading fluency. Research shows that using the Fast ForWord program has been correlated with positive neurological changes in the brain corresponding to the cognitive skills that underlie reading.
By incorporating the use of the Fast ForWord program to build cognitive skills and the Reading Assistant program to ensure sufficient reading practice, you can help your adolescent students jumpstart their reading progress instead of remaining stagnant. Dr. Burns takes you on a detailed tour of how these programs strengthen cognitive skills, fluency and comprehension; reinforce learning; and shorten the time it takes to achieve significant milestones in achievement.
Changing the Future
Advanced literacy skills are needed not only in order to succeed in college but also to obtain and hold future jobs. When a teen is struggling in the present, it becomes more difficult for them to see a bright future, often causing them to erect a protective wall against learning and life. Informed educators can help transform these struggles into victory.
On October 30th, noted neuroscience researcher and co-founder of Scientific Learning, Dr. Paula Tallal, conducted a live webinar titled “What do Neuroscientists Know About Learning That Most Educators Don’t?” In her presentation, Dr. Tallal discussed her original research on auditory processing, its relationship to language development, and the far-reaching effects that deficiencies in those areas can have on learning.
Research continues to support the hypothesis that difficulty discriminating between small changes in sound is at the heart of learning problems both in students who have a diagnosed difficulty and those who do not. Dr. Tallal described how oral language is the foundation for learning and for most successful educational outcomes, adding that oral language itself is dependent on the brain’s ability to discriminate and process auditory information. Children who have difficulty perceiving the many subtleties of language find the deck stacked against them in their educational careers. They can experience a variety of impediments to learning, including:
Students with this subtle level of auditory processing problem need specific differentiation that is not possible in most classrooms. The good news, as Dr. Tallal describes, is that modern technology can be used to address the difficulties these children face and help bridge these skill gaps. In fact, it is this level of research and development that informed the development of Scientific Learning’s software programs, including Fast ForWord.
To close, Dr. Tallal took questions from the educators relating to how these insights can be used to improve educational outcomes in all classrooms. Teachers left this insightful webinar with practical strategies that can be used to help learners of all abilities.
So it is only October and the buzz and excitement of starting a new school year has already fizzled. Life is a little boring, the holidays seem too far away, you are more tired than usual, and you are having a little trouble getting enthusiastic about your job or your children’s upcoming book reports and science projects, or whatever. What’s going on? Of course you know, burn-out.
What exactly is burn-out? Does it come from working too hard, not being appreciated? Perhaps, but from the standpoint of the brain, burn-out occurs when motivation declines. The human brain is designed to keep motivation levels high for activities we need to survive, those that are very rewarding, and those that involve novelty. Hence we are usually very motivated to escape a dangerous situation, eat chocolate cake and watch a new movie we just purchased. We tend to associate reward and novelty with play and leisure – video games, a golf or tennis match, watching a new TV show or a sports event, playing a new board game, or visiting a new vacation spot – even though we might work very hard at those activities. Rarely do you hear avid golfers complain about golf burnout. But you also rarely hear CEOs talk about being burned out. They may retire to relieve the stress of their job or spend more time with their family, but rarely do they complain about their workload or burnout. Why not? Because the excitement of a new round of golf and the reward that might come from winning or achieving a greater profit margin motivates the golfer and the CEO. However, when your daily life becomes repetitive, unexciting or non-rewarding, motivation decreases. Burn-out is really the symptom of a brain that has lost its motivation. And motivation declines when two important aspects of life are missing – earned reward and novelty.
So, what can you do about burn-out? The answer actually comes from neuroscience research. Whether your burn-out is associated with a job in or out of the home, the solution is not to work less and play more (because poverty is not very rewarding). Rather, the solution is to turn work into play. And the way to do that is to imbue your day with novelty and challenges where there is an expectation of reward.
Reward thyself: If your work is not very rewarding or your boss is not good at showing appreciation, one important key to avoiding burnout is to build in self rewards for a job well done. Each morning, next to your to-do list, make a “reward when completed list”.
Keep it new: If a job largely involves repetitive routines, try to come up with something new to add.
Delay gratification: Make your work schedule its own reward by scheduling your most boring task first each day and your favorite task last so all day you are looking forward to the activity you enjoy the most.
Finally, build in healthy brain-building activities to your week. A happy brain is a brain that is thinking, creating, planning, solving, and learning new things. Schedule activities outside of work that make you feel good about yourself and keep your mind sharp:
To learn more about the brain, view our free recorded webinar!
Does this ever happen to you as a teacher? You present information in a great deal of detail, covering the content over several days. You are delighted with the way the information flows, you are very pleased with the organization of the content, and the examples you provide are quite clear. Then, a day or two later, one of the students raises her hand and asks you if you will explain that very content. It is as though she had not been present during your lengthy devotion to that topic. You know she was present, you saw her sitting there listening intently, so how could it be that none of it sank in?
A big part of the answer to why some of your students hold onto the information you teach and others do not has to do with a little chemical in the brain that has to be present for a child (or adult) to retain information. That chemical is called “dopamine”. You may have heard about dopamine because it is the chemical that is released in the brain when we are rewarded. It is also released when a person gambles and wins (or loses), takes certain addictive drugs like cocaine, or just engages in a new exciting adventure. For many of your students and many of us as adults, learning about new things is an adventure and very rewarding, and dopamine levels increase in the brain to help us retain that new information. But for some learners, if dopamine levels are low, the new information literally goes in and out of the brain and is lost.
I like to refer to dopamine as the “save button” in the brain. When dopamine is present during an event or experience, we remember it; when it is absent, nothing seems to stick. There are actually some regions of the brain that increase our motivation and interest in activities. Often referred to collectively as the reward center, the regions are activated by dopamine. And the more motivated and interested we are in an activity the more dopamine is released and the better we remember it. The reward center helps us to stay focused and repeat activities that were reinforced through positive outcomes – whether it is finding and returning to a location where good things happened in our life or just remembering interesting information. So as a teacher the next question you might ask is, “How do I increase dopamine levels in my students’ brains so that they are motivated to learn and remember what I teach?” And, believe it or not, the answer is pretty straight forward – “make learning NEW, EXCITING, and REWARDING.” I call this the “how” of teaching and it is something you actually already know very well.
The importance of NEW in learning is something all teachers think about every time we plan a lesson. That is why you love it when your school has NEW text book adoptions – the novelty allows you to teach the information in a new way – which generates enthusiasm on your part and the students. To keep fresh, all teachers try to come up with novel ways to present information and new technology to help present content in a different way whether we are fortunate enough to get new textbooks and technology or not. Increase NOVELTY in a classroom and you increase the dopamine levels of your students.
The importance of EXCITING in learning is why as teachers we rack our brains at night trying to think up adventuresome ways to keep our students interested in the content. To make the content exciting, I know primary teachers who get their students to act out letters or new vocabulary, middle school math teachers who teach area computation by asking students to determine the amount of paint that would be needed to redecorate their bedroom, high school teachers who teach students physics by asking them to build a bridge with nothing more than toothpicks. All of these represent what we were taught were teaching methods -- ways teachers devise to keep the energy and excitement level up in a classroom. Increase excitement in a classroom and you increase dopamine levels of your students.
The importance of REINFORCEMENT in learning is self-evident. All of us are very aware of the power of reinforcement. Some of us try to encourage our husbands (or wives) to take on more household responsibilities by using not too well disguised reinforcement – “My, you are really great at washing the dishes, the kitchen always shines after you are finished.” But reinforcement is actually one of the best ways to increase dopamine levels and assure retention of information. Try this tomorrow in your class. Ask a question that most of the students would not necessarily know, then seek out a student who normally does not raise their hand or try to respond, guide the student so he answers the question correctly in front of the entire class, then reward the student with a compliment. A day or so later, ask that same student the question again. What you will find is that student will remember that information even though he might be ordinarily very poor at attending in class or forgetful. Carefully used, reinforcement is one of the greatest memory enhancers in the brain because it is so powerful at increasing dopamine.
I like to say, successful teaching is not difficult and is very NEAR – New, Exciting And Rewarding because those are the keys to keeping dopamine levels high in the brain. And by the way, keeping your teaching New, Exciting and Rewarding does not just increase your students’ dopamine levels, it increases yours as well. Coming up with new fresh ways to present the information, making the content interesting and exciting whenever possible, and rewarding all of your students for their successes in your classroom keeps motivation and attention levels high and promotes retention. Dopamine can be addictive -- our goal as teachers is to get our students addicted to learning.
For further reading:
Our Fall Webinar Series for Educators is here! Join us for presentations on topics from how the brain learn to how you can increase test scores and reading proficiency for your students.
How the Brain Learns
Dr. William Jenkins, one of our four founders and an expert in learning-based brain plasticity, will review the three dimensions of executive function often highlighted by scientists—working memory, inhibitory control, and cognitive flexibility. Learn about the development of these skills across childhood and look at some popular misconceptions about executive function in children. His last webinar on executive function was a big hit—you‘ll want to join us for this one!
10/11 - Teaching with the Brain in Mind
Brain-based learning expert Eric Jensen returns to share specific, practical brain-compatible strategies you can use in the classroom right away. Discover how the brain works, how teaching changes the brain, and what it takes for students to acquire complex learning and achieve their best. Jensen’s webinars are always packed—be sure to register and arrive early!
Dr. Paula Tallal will join us to discuss the latest neuroscience research on learning, her original research on auditory processing and language, and the classroom application of these scientific findings to help struggling learners succeed. Dr. Tallal is one of our four founders and a very engaging presenter—don’t miss this rare opportunity to learn from her!
Real Life Results with Scientific Learning Programs
Returning presenter Cory Armes will discuss how the Fast ForWord program supports English Language Learners by simultaneously developing academic skills critical for reading, such as English language conventions, phonemic awareness, vocabulary, and comprehension. A live Fast ForWord demo will be included in this webinar.
Dr. Martha Burns will open the webinar with an overview of how the brain learns. Then, special guests Dr. Dave Mundy and Cindy Keever from Westfield-Washington Schools in Indiana will discuss how students achieved nearly double their expected gains in reading with the Fast ForWord program. Bring your questions for our guests!
Maura Deptula will provide an in-depth look at the Reading Assistant online reading coach and results achieved by students using it. Reading practice with Reading Assistant helps strengthen fluency, vocabulary and comprehension. This webinar will include a live product demonstration.
9/10 - The Science of Learning
One of our most popular presenters, Dr. Burns returns to discuss ways to accelerate your children’s learning. Recent brain research shows that developing the critical cognitive skills of memory, attention, processing, and sequencing can make a significant difference for your children and result in improved test scores. Dr. Burns will discuss key areas of the brain and how these areas influence reading and academic performance. Angela, a parent from Wisconsin, will discuss her son’s progress and results with the BrainPro program.
Why are there more patients coming to my office with complaints of memory problems? Great question, and the typical answer is stress! In the course of human development, our brain developed the acute stress response that promoted survival when we were being chased and threatened by large animals—and it uses the same stress response to react to stressful events in everyday modern life.
A stressor triggers the amygdala in our brain that sets off the alarm bells for the body to prepare to fight or flee. Norepinephrine floods the brain generating a state of hyper focus, the pituitary sets off the adrenal glands and adrenaline cascades through the body. This causes the lungs to expand for more oxygen, the blood flow to increase to large muscles, digestion and reproduction to halt, and processing speed to increase. We are prepared to fight for our survival.
If this beneficial response to life-threatening stressors does not shut off appropriately, it becomes a chronic response that can damage the structure and function of the brain’s hippocampus. The hippocampus is the neighbor of the amygdala and the critical structure for memory and new learning.
The body generates steroid hormones known as glucocorticoids when under stress, and over time these hormones can do structural and functional damage to the hippocampus. This is the reason why chronic stress can cause memory problems. It is common, for example, to see memory deficit in those with Post-traumatic Stress Disorder.
The good news is we do have some control over our perceptions and our body’s ability to regain a balanced and relaxed state.
In my practice, I spend time working with patients to first explain with pictures the neuroanatomy and neurophysiology of stress and the brain. This provides a visual to the person. We then identify what the stressors are in the person’s life that are setting off the alarm bells in the brain. Using visualization, relaxation, meditation, and self-talk the person can connect with their amygdala and cool the alarm bells by triggering the “rest and digest” system, also known as the parasympathetic nervous system.
Consider the following tips as a means of cooling the amygdala, thereby promoting hippocampal function and enhancing memory:
Paul Nussbaum, Ph.D., is a board-certified clinical psychologist specializing in neuropsychology. He is a Fellow of the National Academy of Neuropsychology and American Academy of Clinical Psychology and an adjunct Professor in Neurological Surgery at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. Learn more about Dr. Nussbaum at: www.paulnussbaum.com or email him at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
One of my favorite webinar presenters here at Scientific Learning, Dr. Martha Burns, recently gave a webinar called “BrainPro: Preventing Summer Brain Drain.”
Dr. Burns covered a number of points related to learning and retaining information
Following Dr. Burns, we heard from Jenny, a parent from Florida who had her teenage daughter use the BrainPro program to help her pass the FCAT (the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test). Her daughter has a very high GPA and takes AP and Honors classes, but had difficulty in passing the FCAT reading test two years in a row. After she went through the BrainPro program, she took the FCAT for the 3rd time and passed with a near perfect score on the test.
View the webinar to for more detail and visuals about how the brain learns, and find out how the BrainPro program can help learners stay sharp over the summer break.