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This study was conducted by Nadine Gaab and her colleagues and was published in Restorative Neurology and Neuroscience in 2007. Studies have shown that in adults with developmental dyslexia, there is a disruption of the left prefrontal cortex’s response to short sounds. This is important since speech is made up of numerous short sounds and a person’s mastery of the subtle sounds of spoken language are related to reading ability.
In this study, the researchers wanted to extend those findings to children. They did this by investigating which regions of the children’s brain were active in response to rapid auditory stimuli, determining whether the activation patterns were similar in children with dyslexia and children with typically developing reading skills, determining whether these differences could be remediated, and determining whether the remediation also resulted in changes in language and reading scores. A total of 45 children took part in this study. The average age was 10 ½. 22 of the children had developmental dyslexia and 23 had typically developing reading skills. All students were behaviorally and physiologically assessed. Some students then used the Fast ForWord Language product, an intensive intervention that builds rapid auditory processing, phonological, and linguistic skills. Fast ForWord Language, is an intensive computerized product that uses sounds and processed language to help build students’ foundational learning skills including their auditory processing skills, their memory, their attention, and their sequencing. The version of the product that was used did not include any orthographic stimuli -- there was no text, it was all sounds and pictures.
The students used the Fast ForWord Language product for 100 minutes a day, five days a week, for eight weeks. The behavioral tests evaluated students’ early reading skills and reading achievement. They were: The Comprehensive Test of Phonological Processing, The Clinical Evaluation of Language Fundamentals, and the Woodcock Reading Mastery Test. These tests evaluated students’ ability to manipulate the sounds in language, as well as their ability to use language in general, and their ability to read and understand words, sentences, and paragraphs. In addition to the behavioral tests, fMRI was used to measure students’ brain activity while they were doing a task unrelated to reading and language – they were listening to sounds that change in frequency, like the sound of a whistle. The pre-tests showed that the students with dyslexia had reading skills that were significantly below the reading scores of their typically developing peers.
After using the Fast ForWord product, students’ reading and language skills were re-evaluated. The students had made improvements in sight-word reading and passage comprehension as well as their total language skills and phonological awareness. These improvements were statistically significant. In addition, the students’ cortical activity was re-evaluated. In children with dyslexia, there are no regions in the brain where they have significant differences between the cortical responses to fast transitions versus the cortical responses to slow transitions. After remediation, it was found that several regions where the differences in activation increased – more similar to the activation patterns of children with typical development. Of particular interest is left pre-frontal region – an area that has been repeatedly shown to have different processing in children with dyslexia. The results of this study are consistent with the hypothesis that deficits in auditory processing can compromise the ability to process rapid changes in frequency such as those that occur within phonemes, and that this impairment can lead to a deficit in the phonological processing of oral language, which can lead to a reading impairment. These results also show that the neural circuitry of children with developmental dyslexia is plastic – it can be changed. Effective remediation can be accomplished by focusing on improving rapid auditory processing and oral language skills and results in improved reading and language skills, as well as increased brain activity in response to rapidly changing sounds.
For more information, please see:
Sound Training Rewires Dyslexic Children's Brains For Reading (by Nadine Gaab, Ph.D.)
Sound Training Rewires Dyslexic Children's Brains For Reading (from Science Daily)
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