Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Carnegie Mellon scientists discover first evidence of brain rewiring in children

10.12.2009
Study shows reading remediation improves children's reading skills and positively alters brain tissue

Carnegie Mellon University scientists Timothy Keller and Marcel Just have uncovered the first evidence that intensive instruction to improve reading skills in young children causes the brain to physically rewire itself, creating new white matter that improves communication within the brain.

As the researchers report today in the journal Neuron, brain imaging of children between the ages of 8 and 10 showed that the quality of white matter — the brain tissue that carries signals between areas of grey matter, where information is processed — improved substantially after the children received 100 hours of remedial training. After the training, imaging indicated that the capability of the white matter to transmit signals efficiently had increased, and testing showed the children could read better.

"Showing that it's possible to rewire a brain's white matter has important implications for treating reading disabilities and other developmental disorders, including autism," said Just, the D.O. Hebb Professor of Psychology and director of Carnegie Mellon's Center for Cognitive Brain Imaging (CCBI).

Dr. Thomas R. Insel, director of the National Institute of Mental Health, agreed. "We have known that behavioral training can enhance brain function. The exciting breakthrough here is detecting changes in brain connectivity with behavioral treatment. This finding with reading deficits suggests an exciting new approach to be tested in the treatment of mental disorders, which increasingly appear to be due to problems in specific brain circuits," Insel said.

Keller and Just's study was designed to discover what physically changes in the brains of poor readers who make the transition to good reading. They scanned the brains of 72 children before and after they went through a six-month remedial instruction program. Using diffusion tensor imaging (DTI), a new brain imaging technique that tracks water movement in order to reveal the microscopic structure of white matter, Keller and Just found a brain change involving the white matter cabling that wires different parts of the brain together.

"Water molecules that are inside nerve fibers tend to move or diffuse parallel to the nerve fibers," explained Keller, a CCBI research scientist and author of the first developmental study of compromised white matter in autism. "To track the nerve fibers, the scanner senses areas in which many water molecules are moving along in the same direction and produces a road-map of the brain's wiring."

Previous DTI studies had shown that both children and adults with reading difficulty displayed areas of compromised white matter. This new study shows that 100 hours of intensive reading instruction improved children's reading skills and also increased the quality of the compromised white matter to normal levels. More precisely, the DTI imaging illustrated that the consistency of water diffusion had increased in this region, indicating an improvement in the integrity of the white matter tracts.

"The improved integrity essentially increases communication bandwidth between the two brain areas that the white matter connects, by a factor of 10," Just said. "This opens a new era of being able to see the brain wiring change when an effective instructional treatment is applied. It lets us see educational interventions from a new perspective."

Out of the 72 children, 47 were poor readers and 25 were reading at a normal level. The good readers and a group of 12 poor readers did not receive the remedial instruction, and their brain scans did not show any changes. "The lack of change in the control groups demonstrates that the change in the treated group cannot be attributed to naturally occurring maturation during the study," Keller said.

Keller and Just also found that the amount of change in diffusion among the treated group was directly related to the amount of increase in phonological decoding ability. The children who showed the most white matter change also showed the most improvement in reading ability, confirming the link between the brain tissue alteration and reading progress.

Additional analyses indicated that the change resulted from a decrease in the movement of water perpendicular to the main axes of the underlying white matter fibers, a finding consistent with increased myelin content in the region. Although the authors caution that further research will be necessary to uncover the precise mechanism for the change in white matter, some previous findings indicate a role for electrical activity along axons in promoting the formation of myelin around them, providing a plausible physiological basis for intensive practice and instruction increasing the efficiency of communication among brain areas.

"We're excited about these results," Just said. "The indication that behavioral intervention can improve both cognitive performance and the microstructure of white matter tracts is a breakthrough for treating and understanding development problems."

The research was funded by grants from the Richard King Mellon Foundation and the National Institute of Mental Health.

Shilo Raube | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.cmu.edu
http://www.ccbi.cmu.edu

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht Antarctic Ice Sheet mass loss has increased
14.06.2018 | Technische Universität Dresden

nachricht WAKE-UP provides new treatment option for stroke patients | International study led by UKE
17.05.2018 | Universitätsklinikum Hamburg-Eppendorf

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Temperature-controlled fiber-optic light source with liquid core

In a recent publication in the renowned journal Optica, scientists of Leibniz-Institute of Photonic Technology (Leibniz IPHT) in Jena showed that they can accurately control the optical properties of liquid-core fiber lasers and therefore their spectral band width by temperature and pressure tuning.

Already last year, the researchers provided experimental proof of a new dynamic of hybrid solitons– temporally and spectrally stationary light waves resulting...

Im Focus: Overdosing on Calcium

Nano crystals impact stem cell fate during bone formation

Scientists from the University of Freiburg and the University of Basel identified a master regulator for bone regeneration. Prasad Shastri, Professor of...

Im Focus: AchemAsia 2019 will take place in Shanghai

Moving into its fourth decade, AchemAsia is setting out for new horizons: The International Expo and Innovation Forum for Sustainable Chemical Production will take place from 21-23 May 2019 in Shanghai, China. With an updated event profile, the eleventh edition focusses on topics that are especially relevant for the Chinese process industry, putting a strong emphasis on sustainability and innovation.

Founded in 1989 as a spin-off of ACHEMA to cater to the needs of China’s then developing industry, AchemAsia has since grown into a platform where the latest...

Im Focus: First real-time test of Li-Fi utilization for the industrial Internet of Things

The BMBF-funded OWICELLS project was successfully completed with a final presentation at the BMW plant in Munich. The presentation demonstrated a Li-Fi communication with a mobile robot, while the robot carried out usual production processes (welding, moving and testing parts) in a 5x5m² production cell. The robust, optical wireless transmission is based on spatial diversity; in other words, data is sent and received simultaneously by several LEDs and several photodiodes. The system can transmit data at more than 100 Mbit/s and five milliseconds latency.

Modern production technologies in the automobile industry must become more flexible in order to fulfil individual customer requirements.

Im Focus: Sharp images with flexible fibers

An international team of scientists has discovered a new way to transfer image information through multimodal fibers with almost no distortion - even if the fiber is bent. The results of the study, to which scientist from the Leibniz-Institute of Photonic Technology Jena (Leibniz IPHT) contributed, were published on 6thJune in the highly-cited journal Physical Review Letters.

Endoscopes allow doctors to see into a patient’s body like through a keyhole. Typically, the images are transmitted via a bundle of several hundreds of optical...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Munich conference on asteroid detection, tracking and defense

13.06.2018 | Event News

2nd International Baltic Earth Conference in Denmark: “The Baltic Sea region in Transition”

08.06.2018 | Event News

ISEKI_Food 2018: Conference with Holistic View of Food Production

05.06.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Graphene assembled film shows higher thermal conductivity than graphite film

22.06.2018 | Materials Sciences

Fast rising bedrock below West Antarctica reveals an extremely fluid Earth mantle

22.06.2018 | Earth Sciences

Zebrafish's near 360 degree UV-vision knocks stripes off Google Street View

22.06.2018 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>