Oct 5, 2010 by Barbara Calhoun, Ph.D
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Published by Brain Research in 2008, this study was conducted at the University of Oregon by Courtney Stevens and her colleagues.

Behavioral studies have reported deficits in selective attention in children with language disorders including specific language impairments and dyslexia. The Temple et al. study observed that after Fast ForWord participation, there was increased activation in cortical areas related to attention.

This study evaluates whether intervention with the high-intensity Fast ForWord product would influence the neural mechanisms associated with selective auditory attention. This study focused on children who were 6 to 8 years old. 

The students were divided into three groups. Group 1 was made up of language impaired students who used the intervention. Group 2 was comprised of typically developing children who used the intervention. Group 3 was made up of typically developing children who did not use the intervention. 

The intervention was the Fast ForWord Language product. On average, students used it 100 minutes a day, five days a week. They ended up using it for 29 days across six weeks.

Students were behaviorally and physiologically evaluated at the start and end of the study. The behavioral measure was the Clinical Evaluation of Language Fundamentals (CELF), a measure of oral language and early reading skills. The physiological evaluation was event-related brain potentials, also known as ERPs, which are changes in the electrical activity in the brain in response to specific events, such as briefly presented tones.

In this particular study, two different stories were presented to a student, one in each ear. The stories were about different subjects, and were presented by different speakers. Students were asked to attend to the story in either the right ear, or the left ear. Selective attention can be measured by the difference in the size of the ERP to a specific sound that is presented to the attended vs. ignored ear.

There were two groups of students that received intervention. One group was language impaired and the other group was typically developing. As might be expected, students in the typically developing group had substantially higher scores than did students in the language impaired group. After the intervention, students in both groups had statistically significant improvements in their receptive language skills. The third group of typically developing students who had no intervention had initial scores were similar to those of the typically developing students who had the intervention. However, at the end of the study, there was no appreciable improvement in their receptive language skills.

Initially, students in the typically developing group could attend better than the students in the language impaired group. After the intervention, students in both groups made statistically significant improvements in their ability to attend to an event. Looking at students in the third group, typically developing students with no intervention, showed that they started out at the same level as the typically developing students who had intervention, and there was no appreciable change in their ability to attend.