Under-activity linked to cause of dyslexia

Paul McGuire

Research into how the brain works is leading to a greater understanding of dyslexia.

Dr Lorraine Hammond shared her expertise in neuroscience and dyslexia with parents and teachers.

'A pattern of under-activation in the back of the brain provides a neural signature for the phonological difficulties characterising dyslexia. This [under-activation] can be measured through brain-scanning technology such as Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging,' she said.

Slides of scans were shown demonstrating how the brain of a dyslexic child has little activity in areas linking language to visual cues compared with a non-dyslexic one.

Named using the Greek roots dys (difficulty) and lexis (word), the neurobiological condition affects 3 to 5 per cent of the population - at least one student per class.

Not only does dyslexia run in families, it is also carried as a genetic trait. 'Human genotyping studies indicate that genes two, six, eight and 15 are those that contribute to reading disability,' Hammond said.

Clinical studies showed that boys and girls were equally likely to have it. 'This is despite the fact that most school identification procedures indicate a greater incidence in boys.' Hammond explained that boys were often identified earlier due to behavioural problems in the classroom and the female brain had a compensatory mechanism for literacy which meant the level of difficulty girls experienced could be less than boys, but is still present.

A myth she was keen to explode is that children grow out of dyslexia. 'This is a 'wait and fail' strategy. Parents and teachers need support to provide early intervention programmes.' She listed many successful individuals who overcame dyslexia, including Albert Einstein and Winston Churchill.