New research shows that phonics-based instruction can actually change brain activity in adults with dyslexia, resulting in significant improvements in reading. The findings from a collaborative study by Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center and Georgetown University Medical Center were reported today in the journal Neuron. "With about 112 hours of phonic-based instruction, adults with dyslexia had significant improvements in reading and changes in brain activity while reading," said Lynn Flowers, Ph.D., senior researcher, from Wake Forest Baptist. "We know that dyslexia is not something children outgrow, and our findings suggest that it’s never too late for instruction to overcome this disability."
This was the first independent research study of whether phonics-based instruction is effective in adults with dyslexia and the first to measure whether the instruction would result in changes in brain activation. Dyslexia, or difficulty learning to read, has been associated with underactivity in areas of the brain that process language and "decode" words into groups of letters that are associated with meaningful sound patterns. The research involved 19 adults with dyslexia and 19 typical readers without dyslexia. The mean age of participants, who were mostly from the Winston-Salem area, was 42.5.
Dyslexia is the most common learning disability and affects about 10 percent of the population. "A huge number of adults have this problem, so it’s important to know whether something can be done to treat it," said Flowers, an assistant professor of neurology. "Adults with dyslexia can suffer significant financial and emotional consequences." The researchers used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) – which shows brain activation during a task – to verify whether adults with dyslexia process language differently from typical readers. The testing – performed while participants completed a phonics task – showed that several areas of the brain, predominantly on the left side, were less active in participants with dyslexia. These areas are associated with processing phonetic sounds and recognizing familiar objects. "This verified our findings and those of others and confirms that dyslexia is biologically based," said Flowers.
Karen Richardson | EurekAlert!
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