The Notebook

Conversations about Learning, Educating, and Teaching

Brain Differences and Learning Differences
mari ::: Research

photo credit: mag3737

In early 1920s, reading pioneer Walter Dearborn believed that not all children learn to read in the same way. Dearborn advocated focusing on children as individuals, the use of different pathways, and attention to physical conditions, eye-fatigue and light.

Now advances in brain imaging are leading to new discoveries involving language, reading and the brain and are shedding light on reading's complexity and individual differences in learning to read.

Here's a brief round-up of some of the highlights:

Sound Training Helps Children Read

Cognitive neuroscientists monitoring brain activity with fMRI found that children with dyslexia are often unable to process the fast-changing sounds used in spoken language. Sound training dedicated to teaching children to better process these sounds improves their ability to manipulate words and their phonetic components, which translates into better reading—and fMRI imaging helps researchers understand why. Read more and see a video here.

Mapping the Brain

An MIT team experimenting with new imaging techniques have identified new language pathways and developed new approaches for mapping the those areas of the brain involved in language processing. Visit the researchers' website here.

Seeing Learning Differences

Children with dyslexia often struggle with reading, writing, and spelling, despite getting an appropriate education and demonstrating intellectual ability in other areas. Now new neurological research has found that difficulties with written language may be linked to structural differences within an important information highway in the brain known to play a role in oral language.

A Vanderbilt University research team using an advanced MRI technique called diffusion tensor imaging has discovered evidence of structure differences in the brains of children with dyslexia. Their study was published in the June 2010 issue of Cortex. Read more here.