Corporate Banner
Satellite Banner
Technology
Networks
Scientific Communities
 
Become a Member | Sign in
Home>News>This Article
  News
Return

Brain Scans May Help Diagnose Dyslexia

Published: Thursday, August 15, 2013
Last Updated: Thursday, August 15, 2013
Bookmark and Share
Differences in a key language structure can be seen even before children start learning to read.

About 10 percent of the U.S. population suffers from dyslexia, a condition that makes learning to read difficult. Dyslexia is usually diagnosed around second grade, but the results of a new study from MIT could help identify those children before they even begin reading, so they can be given extra help earlier.

The study, done with researchers at Boston Children’s Hospital, found a correlation between poor pre-reading skills in kindergartners and the size of a brain structure that connects two language-processing areas.

Previous studies have shown that in adults with poor reading skills, this structure, known as the arcuate fasciculus, is smaller and less organized than in adults who read normally. However, it was unknown if these differences cause reading difficulties or result from lack of reading experience.

“We were very interested in looking at children prior to reading instruction and whether you would see these kinds of differences,” says John Gabrieli, the Grover M. Hermann Professor of Health Sciences and Technology, professor of brain and cognitive sciences and a member of MIT’s McGovern Institute for Brain Research.

Gabrieli and Nadine Gaab, an assistant professor of pediatrics at Boston Children’s Hospital, are the senior authors of a paper describing the results in the Aug. 14 issue of the Journal of Neuroscience. Lead authors of the paper are MIT postdocs Zeynep Saygin and Elizabeth Norton.

The path to reading

The new study is part of a larger effort involving approximately 1,000 children at schools throughout Massachusetts and Rhode Island. At the beginning of kindergarten, children whose parents give permission to participate are assessed for pre-reading skills, such as being able to put words together from sounds.

“From that, we’re able to provide — at the beginning of kindergarten — a snapshot of how that child’s pre-reading abilities look relative to others in their classroom or other peers, which is a real benefit to the child’s parents and teachers,” Norton says.

The researchers then invite a subset of the children to come to MIT for brain imaging. The Journal of Neuroscience study included 40 children who had their brains scanned using a technique known as diffusion-weighted imaging, which is based on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

This type of imaging reveals the size and organization of the brain’s white matter — bundles of nerves that carry information between brain regions. The researchers focused on three white-matter tracts associated with reading skill, all located on the left side of the brain: the arcuate fasciculus, the inferior longitudinal fasciculus (ILF) and the superior longitudinal fasciculus (SLF).

When comparing the brain scans and the results of several different types of pre-reading tests, the researchers found a correlation between the size and organization of the arcuate fasciculus and performance on tests of phonological awareness — the ability to identify and manipulate the sounds of language.

Phonological awareness can be measured by testing how well children can segment sounds, identify them in isolation, and rearrange them to make new words. Strong phonological skills have previously been linked with ease of learning to read. “The first step in reading is to match the printed letters with the sounds of letters that you know exist in the world,” Norton says.

The researchers also tested the children on two other skills that have been shown to predict reading ability — rapid naming, which is the ability to name a series of familiar objects as quickly as you can, and the ability to name letters. They did not find any correlation between these skills and the size or organization of the white-matter structures scanned in this study.

Brian Wandell, director of Stanford University’s Center for Cognitive and Neurobiological Imaging, says the study is a valuable contribution to efforts to find biological markers that a child is likely to need extra help to learn to read.

“The work identifies a clear marker that predicts reading, and the marker is present at a very young age. Their results raise questions about the biological basis of the marker and provides scientists with excellent new targets for study,” says Wandell, who was not part of the research team.

Early intervention

The left arcuate fasciculus connects Broca’s area, which is involved in speech production, and Wernicke’s area, which is involved in understanding written and spoken language. A larger and more organized arcuate fasciculus could aid in communication between those two regions, the researchers say.

Gabrieli points out that the structural differences found in the study don’t necessarily reflect genetic differences; environmental influences could also be involved. “At the moment when the children arrive at kindergarten, which is approximately when we scan them, we don’t know what factors lead to these brain differences,” he says.

The researchers plan to follow three waves of children as they progress to second grade and evaluate whether the brain measures they have identified predict poor reading skills.

“We don’t know yet how it plays out over time, and that’s the big question: Can we, through a combination of behavioral and brain measures, get a lot more accurate at seeing who will become a dyslexic child, with the hope that that would motivate aggressive interventions that would help these children right from the start, instead of waiting for them to fail?” Gabrieli says.

For at least some dyslexic children, offering extra training in phonological skills can help them improve their reading skills later on, studies have shown.

The research was funded by the National Institutes of Health, the Poitras Center for Affective Disorders Research, the Ellison Medical Foundation and the Halis Family Foundation.


Further Information

Join For Free

Access to this exclusive content is for Technology Networks Premium members only.

Join Technology Networks Premium for free access to:

  • Exclusive articles
  • Presentations from international conferences
  • Over 2,900+ scientific posters on ePosters
  • More Than 4,200+ scientific videos on LabTube
  • 35 community eNewsletters


Sign In



Forgotten your details? Click Here
If you are not a member you can join here

*Please note: By logging into TechnologyNetworks.com you agree to accept the use of cookies. To find out more about the cookies we use and how to delete them, see our privacy policy.

Related Content

Living a “Mixotrophic” Lifestyle
Some tiny plankton may have big effect on ocean’s carbon storage.
Wednesday, February 03, 2016
Mapping Regulatory Elements
Systematically searching DNA for regulatory elements indicates limits of previous thinking
Wednesday, February 03, 2016
Curing Disease by Repairing Faulty Genes
New delivery method boosts efficiency of CRISPR genome-editing system.
Wednesday, February 03, 2016
Living a “Mixotrophic” Lifestyle
Some tiny plankton may have big effect on ocean’s carbon storage.
Tuesday, February 02, 2016
Faster Drug Discovery?
Startup develops more cost-effective test for assessing how cells respond to chemicals.
Friday, January 29, 2016
No More Insulin Injections?
Encapsulated pancreatic cells offer possible new diabetes treatment.
Tuesday, January 26, 2016
Engineering Foe into Friend
Bose Grant awardee Jacquin Niles aims to repurpose the malaria parasite for drug delivery.
Monday, January 25, 2016
Synthetic Antibody Detects Proteins
Research could lead to nanosensors that recognize fibrinogen, insulin, or other biomarkers.
Friday, January 15, 2016
Supply Chain
Chemists discover how a single enzyme maintains a cell’s pool of DNA building blocks.
Wednesday, January 13, 2016
Organ-on-a-Chip
In a step toward personalized drug testing, researchers coax human stem cells to form complex tissues.
Friday, January 08, 2016
Study Reveals Shared Behavior of Microbes And Electrons
Bacteria streaming through a lattice behave like electrons in a magnetic material.
Wednesday, January 06, 2016
Study Reveals Shared Behavior of Microbes and Electrons
Bacteria streaming through a lattice behave like electrons in a magnetic material.
Wednesday, January 06, 2016
Tracing a Cellular Family Tree
New technique allows tracking of gene expression over generations of cells as they specialize.
Wednesday, January 06, 2016
Global Reductions in Mercury Emissions Should Lead to Billions in Economic Benefits for U.S.
Benefits from international regulations may double those of domestic policy.
Monday, January 04, 2016
New Device Uses Carbon Nanotubes to Snag Molecules
Nanotube “forest” in a microfluidic channel may help detect rare proteins and viruses.
Tuesday, December 22, 2015
Scientific News
Food Triggers Creation of Regulatory T Cells
IBS researchers document how normal diet establishes immune tolerance conditions in the small intestine.
Light Signals from Living Cells
Fluorescent protein markers delivered under high pressure.
Counting Cancer-busting Oxygen Molecules
Researchers from the Centre for Nanoscale BioPhotonics (CNBP), an Australian Research Centre of Excellence, have shown that nanoparticles used in combination with X-rays, are a viable method for killing cancer cells deep within the living body.
Therapeutic Approach Gives Hope for Multiple Myeloma
A new therapeutic approach tested by a team from Maisonneuve-Rosemont Hospital (CIUSSS-EST, Montreal) and the University of Montreal gives promising results for the treatment of multiple myeloma, a cancer of the bone marrow currently considered incurable with conventional chemotherapy and for which the average life expectancy is about 6 or 7 years.
Cellular 'Relief Valve'
A team led by scientists at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) has solved a long-standing mystery in cell biology by showing essentially how a key “relief-valve” in cells does its job.
Genomic Signature Shared by Five Types of Cancer
National Institutes of Health researchers have identified a striking signature in tumor DNA that occurs in five different types of cancer.
Protein Protects Against Flu in Mice
The engineered molecule doesn’t provoke inflammation and may hail a new class of antivirals.
Cat Stem Cell Therapy Gives Humans Hope
By the time Bob the cat came to the UC Davis veterinary hospital, he had used up most of his nine lives.
Crowdfunding the Fight Against Cancer
From budding social causes to groundbreaking businesses to the next big band, crowdfunding has helped connect countless worthy projects with like-minded people willing to support their efforts, even in small ways. But could crowdfunding help fight cancer?
Switch Lets Salmonella Fight, Evade Immune System
Researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago have discovered a molecular regulator that allows salmonella bacteria to switch from actively causing disease to lurking in a chronic but asymptomatic state called a biofilm.
Scroll Up
Scroll Down
Skyscraper Banner

Skyscraper Banner
Go to LabTube
Go to eposters
 
Access to the latest scientific news
Exclusive articles
Upload and share your posters on ePosters
Latest presentations and webinars
View a library of 1,800+ scientific and medical posters
2,900+ scientific and medical posters
A library of 2,500+ scientific videos on LabTube
4,200+ scientific videos
Close
Premium CrownJOIN TECHNOLOGY NETWORKS PREMIUM FOR FREE!