Brain scan catches dyslexia earlier in kids

By Casey Frye, CCNN Writer

dyslexic words
People affected by dyslexia have trouble reading. Sometimes the letters appear to be switched around.

Dyslexia is a learning disability that makes it hard for children to read or spell. It’s usually diagnosed when a kid really begins exploring books in the second grade. However, MIT researchers believe their technique can detect the disability before a child even begins to read!

“The first step in reading is to match the printed letters with the sounds of letters that you know exist in the world,” said Elizabeth Norton, a researcher at MIT. The researchers tested preschool students for these early reading skills and then scanned their brains for two specific measurements. The first checked the size of certain brain regions related to language while the second observed brain cell connections. They discovered that the kids who had trouble with the reading test also had poor connections and smaller areas in the brain regions.

Older research has already shown that adults with dyslexia have small language centers, but scientists couldn’t tell which came first: the difficulty reading or the disorganized brain. MIT professor John Gabrieli said, “We do not know how many of these children will go on to develop problems. But anyway, we want to [catch it] before [then], and the younger you do that the better. We already know that reading programmes and interventions can really help.”

This technique can help researchers determine what causes dyslexia. Still, the scientists need to do more testing so they can get a deeper understanding the brain disorder.