MRI scans used to detect dyslexic potential before reading begins

Although many of us will never directly know the challenges faced by those with dyslexia, the condition is one that affects even some of the most successful leaders in tech, including Segway creator Dean Kamen, Cisco Systems CEO John Chambers, and the late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs. In fact, so many interesting people with dyslexia have succeeded that some have wondered if it might not somehow provide an advantage in some cases.

Nevertheless, the medical community still views the condition as a something that should be identified and treated as early as possible, and there may be a new way to do that. A study conducted by researchers from MIT and the Boston Children’s Hospital has revealed a method that may allow for earlier identification of dyslexic children. The results were published in this week's Journal of the Society for Neuroscience.

Using 40 kindergartners who had their brains scanned with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), the researchers were able to detect a relationship between the size of a brain's white matter associated with reading skill, and the ability of a child to perform well on phonological tests that suggest future reading skills.

While the study offers some promise in earlier detection of dyslexia, the research is still evolving with more data from test subjects. One of the researchers, John Gabrieli, a member of MIT’s McGovern Institute for Brain Research, said, "we don't know yet how it plays out over time, and that's the big question: can we, through a combination of behavioral and brain measures, get a lot more accurate at seeing who will become a dyslexic child, with the hope that that would motivate aggressive interventions that would help these children right from the start, instead of waiting for them to fail?”


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