Scientists have found a mechanism using devices to "fix" the problem of dyslexia, a constellation of impairments unrelated to intelligence, hearing or vision that make reading a struggle.
While most children read smoothly, as many as one in 10 is estimated to suffer from dyslexia. Now, researchers from Northwestern University report they have found a biological mechanism that appears to play an important role in the reading process, the Science Daily reported.
"We discovered a systematic relationship between reading ability and the consistency with which the brain encodes sounds," Nina Kraus, Hugh Knowles Professor of Neurobiology, Physiology and Communication was quoted as saying.
Recording the automatic brain wave responses of 100 school-aged children to speech sounds, researchers found that the very best readers encoded the sound most consistently while the poorest readers encoded it with inconsistency, which could be "fixed" through training.
Presumably, the brain`s response to sound stabilises when children learn to successfully connect sounds with their meanings.
For the study, children with reading impairments were fitted for a year with assistive listening devices that transmitted their teacher`s voice directly into their ears.
After a year, the children showed improvement not only in reading but also in the consistency with which their brains encoded speech sounds, particularly consonants.
"Use of the devices focused youngsters` brains on the "meaningful" sounds coming from their teacher, diminishing other, extraneous distractions," said Kraus. "After a year of use, the students had honed their auditory systems and no longer required the assistive devices to keep their reading and encoding advantage."
The results suggest that good readers profit from a stable neural representation of sound, and that children with inconsistent neural responses are likely at a disadvantage when learning to read, Kraus added.
"The good news is that response consistency can be improved with auditory training."
Photo courtesy: scottishdyslexia.blogspot.com