Could video games help kids with dyslexia?

A research team from the University of Padua, Italy has conducted a study suggesting playing fast paced games that stress chaos versus literacy exercises may read with increased speed. The team tested seven to thirteen-year-olds after playing Wii's Rayman Raving Rabbits for 12 hours over two weeks, and found increased reading speed with no loss of reading accuracy; matching or exceeding previously reported effects of reading focused programs for dyslexia.

The gains were also reported to last two months after the video game sessions. So does this give therapists a valuable, engaging tool to help children with reading disabilities? The research community remains divided, despite the study.

Lead psychologist Andrea Facoetti from the University of Padua research team argues yes in their report published in the February 28 edition of Current Biology. He says their study of 20 children with dyslexia builds on existing evidence that many readers have difficulty focusing on items within arrays. He says action video games help strengthen the ability to monitor central and peripheral objects in chaotic scenes, which gives helps them sharpen the ability to track successive letters in written words.

Others would say not so fast. As reported in ScienceNews, psychologist Nicola Brunswick of Middlesex University in London points out that while the Padua researchers tested word reading ability or speed two months later they didn't follow through with testing comprehension. Plus, this follow up was with only six out of 10 children in the control group who played the "chaotic" video games versus those who played a non-action game or exercise.

Cognitive neuroscientist Bruce McCandliss of Vanderbilt University doesn't dismiss video games outright as a tool to be studied, but points out they may not help those with severe reading problems. He notes children made plenty of errors when reading nonsense words before and after playing action video games - even though they were speedier.

It's also worth noting the University of Padua team conducted the study in Italian, though they have plans to follow up on their study in English and other languages where written letters could have multiple sounds. Their belief is, at a minimum, their research shows action video games could help prevent the onset of symptoms in at-risk children.

Via ScienceNews, The Telegraph