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Neural deficits in children with dyslexia ameliorated by behavioral remediation: Evidence from functional MRI

Fast ForWord programs are the only reading intervention that has been substantiated by research at Rutgers, Stanford, Harvard, MIT, Cornell, etc.

Following training with the Fast ForWord products, the cortical activation in children with dyslexia (bottom) became more similar to the activation of typically-developing children. 

Developmental dyslexia, characterized by unexplained difficulty in reading, is associated with behavioral deficits in phonological processing. Functional neuroimaging studies have shown a deficit in the neural mechanisms underlying phonological processing in children and adults with dyslexia. The present study examined whether behavioral remediation ameliorates these dysfunctional neural mechanisms in children with dyslexia. Functional MRI was performed on 20 children with dyslexia (8–12 years old) during phonological processing before and after a remediation program focused on auditory processing and oral language training.

Behaviorally, training improved oral language and reading performance. Physiologically, children with dyslexia showed increased activity in multiple brain areas. Increases occurred in left temporo-parietal cortex and left inferior frontal gyrus, bringing brain activation in these regions closer to that seen in normal-reading children. Increased activity was observed also in right-hemisphere frontal and temporal regions and in the anterior cingulate gyrus. Children with dyslexia showed a correlation between the magnitude of increased activation in left temporo-parietal cortex and improvement in oral language ability.

These results suggest that a partial remediation of language-processing deficits, resulting in improved reading, ameliorates disrupted function in brain regions associated with phonological processing and produces additional compensatory activation in other brain regions

Conclusions

This study demonstrates several important findings. These results demonstrate,

  • First, that it is possible to visualize changes in brain function after reading remediation.
  • Second, these results showed that the specific remediation program, Fast ForWord Language, resulted in changes in brain function that include left hemisphere language regions, right hemisphere homologues, and a number of other brain areas. Some of the changes brought the brain function of children with dyslexia closer to that seen in normal-reading children, whereas other changes seemed to be compensatory in nature.
  • Finally, these results demonstrated that the commonly observed dysfunction in dyslexics’ left temporo-parietal brain function (5) can be at least partly ameliorated through behavioral remediation. Children between 8 and 12 years old with dyslexia can show increased activity in this region after training, and the extent of the increases seen in this region correlated with the extent of improvement in language ability.