A study was done by Elise Temple and her colleagues in 2003 and was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in 2003. Numerous other studies have shown that when children are reading, specific parts of their brains are active. This activation can be measured using functional magnetic resonance imaging, also known as fMRI. There are differences in the physiological activity of the brains of the good readers vs the poor readers. The biggest difference is in the temporo-parietal region.
At the time of this study, Elise Temple was at Stanford University and was interested in whether these differences could be reduced. She examined whether there were interventions that could ameliorate deficits in the neural mechanisms that underlie phonological processing in children with dyslexia.
The study involved children between 8 and 12 years of age and 20 of the students had developmental dyslexia. Then data from a group of typical readers was collected to provide a comparison. These students were behaviorally and physiologically assessed at the start and end of the study. During the study, students with dyslexia used the Fast ForWord Language software product. The students used the Fast ForWord Language product for 100 minutes a day, five days a week. On average, they used the product for 28 days.
Three behavioral tests were given to the students that 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 reading task. As has been found by other researchers, Temple and her colleagues found that during reading tasks, typical readers had physiological activity in the temporo-parietal and frontal regions of the brain. They also found that there are differences in the physiological activity of the students with developmental dyslexia, specifically in the temporo-parietal and frontal regions.
After using the product, students’ cortical activity was re-evaluated. There were several areas that had increased activity – of specific interest were the left temporo-parietal region and the left frontal region. Both are regions that typically have reduced activity in children with dyslexia, but whose activation increased following remediation with the Fast ForWord Language product.
Corresponding with the changes in temporo-parietal activation, there were improvements in the students’ behavioral measures. The improvements in receptive and expressive language skills, as well as rapid naming, which tests rapid recall abilities, were all statistically significant. There were also improvements in other reading skills including sight word reading, decoding, and passage comprehension. Again, these improvements were statistically significant.
The results of this study lead Temple and her colleagues to conclude that students with dyslexia have reduced cortical activity in the temporo-parietal and inferior frontal regions. The activation becomes more typical when students undergo intensive remediation and that the changes in cortical activation are correlated with improvements in early reading skills.