Diagnosing dyslexia with MRI scans

According to researchers from M.I.T., magnetic resonance imaging could be used to help diagnose dyslexia, a condition that’s generally difficult to diagnose.  Using the MRI technique, researchers were able can identify a link between the size of the language-processing area of the brain and poor pre-reading skills in kindergartners.  With an estimated 10 million students nationwide suffering from dyslexia, finding a new path towards early diagnosis could help keep many students from falling behind their classmates.

This analysis looked at 1,000 children from Massachusetts and Rhode Island, with the researchers assessing children at the start of kindergarten to gain an understanding of where each child's pre-reading skills were. Then, 40 of the children were invited to be studied using MRI technology.

Upon comparing the brain scans of the children, a link was established between the size and organization of the arcuate fasciculus and performance on phonological awareness tests.  The arcuate fasciculus – the part of the brain associated with dyslexia – connects the regions of the brain that produce speech and the area that understands written and spoken language.  If a child is unable to match printed letters with their associated sounds, he or she will likely have difficulty making them into new words.

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