Dyslexia rules KO

Image Source: Corbis

In my previous neuroeducation post, I briefly outlined the latest scientific research which shows that learning actually changes the shape of the brain, allowing specific areas in the brain to grow or change and how most importantly this brain growth can be accelerated to improve learning and memory using certain approaches to teaching.

Neuroeducation also encompasses the study of common conditions such as brain injury, dyslexia, hyperactivity attention deficit disorder, learning disability, malnutrition, stuttering and indeed depression and anxiety disorder.

Today let’s take a look at one of these conditions in more detail.  

Dyslexia rules KO 

Research has shown that children with dyslexia suffer from two specific problems: trouble analyzing and processing sound (phonology) and difficulties with rapid naming of objects. 

Early intervention particularly with phonological therapies – before the child gets into trouble in school – appears to prevent dyslexia. The old idea was that dyslexia was somehow a hole in brain – a mental deficit – is not the case. These children appear to be just on the low end of an ability to learn to read instead of having some problem in their brains in much the same way as those children who find difficulty learning a musical instrument.

The problem for dyslexic children is that unlike learning a musical instrument, learning to read is regarded by society as an essential skill – thus putting these kids on the back foot.  The good news is that early detection and treatment for dyslexia is available and better and more effective treatments are being developed as we speak.

The neuroscience of music

I am interested in ongoing research focusing on the effects of music training on the nervous system, and have given some talks on the subject over the past few years. It is also very interesting to note from recent studies that music training has implications for neuroeducation.

Research from Northwestern’s Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory strongly suggests that an active engagement with musical sounds not only enhances neuroplasticity, but also enables the nervous system to provide the stable scaffolding of meaningful patterns so important to learning.

According to Northwestern’s Professor Nina Kraus, director of  Northwestern’s Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory “The brain is unable to process all of the available sensory information from second to second, and thus must selectively enhance what is relevant,” Kraus said. Playing an instrument primes the brain to choose what is relevant in a complex process that may involve reading or remembering a score, timing issues and coordination with other musicians.”

Again, I am most interested to note that in Northwestern’s research shows that children who are musically trained have a better vocabulary and reading ability than children who did not receive music training.

Furthermore Professor Kraus says that “Music training seems to strengthen the same neural processes that often are deficient in individuals with developmental dyslexia or who have difficulty hearing speech in noise.”

Professor Kraus argues for proper investment of resources in music training in schools: “The effect of music training suggests that, akin to physical exercise and its impact on body fitness, music is a resource that tones the brain for auditory fitness and thus requires society to re-examine the role of music in shaping individual development. ”

“Music training for the development of auditory skills,” by Nina Kraus and Bharath Chandrasekaran, will be published July 20 in the journal Nature Reviews Neuroscience.