Brain scans predict which dyslexics will read

Mon Dec 20, 2010 4:48pm EST
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By Julie Steenhuysen

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Sophisticated brain scans accurately predicted which teens with dyslexia would learn to read within three years, a finding that could lead to better ways to treat the common learning disability, researchers said on Monday.

By looking for a specific pattern of brain activity in teens with dyslexia, the researchers predicted with 90 percent accuracy which students would learn to read.

"This gives us hope that we can identify which children might get better over time," Dr. Fumiko Hoeft of Stanford University School of Medicine, whose study appears in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, said in a statement.

"More study is needed before the technique is clinically useful, but this is a huge step forward."

Dyslexia is a brain-based learning disability that affects 5 to 17 percent of U.S. children. People with dyslexia have difficulties with reading, spelling, writing and pronouncing words.

About one-fifth of people with severe dyslexia learn to read. Hoeft and colleagues wanted to see what was occurring in the brain in these students.

They studied 45 teens aged 11 to 14 who took a battery of tests to determine their reading abilities. Based on these, they classified 25 of them as dyslexics.

The team used two different imaging techniques, including functional magnetic resonance imaging, which measures oxygen used by the brain during different activities, and diffusion tensor magnetic resonance imaging or DTI, which reveals connections between brain areas.   Continued...