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MRI Might Find Dyslexia Before Kids Can Read

January 25, 2012
Written by: , Filed in: Neuroradiology, Pediatric Radiology
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MRI can detect signs of potential developmental dyslexia in children even before they begin learning to read, according to researchers at Children’s Hospital Boston.

That could be very useful because the earlier the intervention, the better the prognosis in treating developmental dyslexia.

Senior investigator Nadine Gaab, PhD, of the hospital’s Labs of Cognitive Neuroscience said dyslexia usually isn’t diagnosed until the child is in third grade, although the various available neuropsychological interventions are more effective when begun earlier. The delay in diagnosis, she said, can lead to frustration for both the child, who struggles with reading, and the parents:

Families often know that their child has dyslexia as early as kindergarten, but they can’t get interventions at their schools. If we can show that we can identify these kids early, schools may be encouraged to develop programs.

Dr.Gaab was quoted in a hospital news release. The research is detailed in a study published online this week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.

The researchers used functional MRI to scan the brains of preschool-age children—average age: 5½—as the kids performed tasks requiring them to decide whether two words started with the same sound. (For this and other brain research, the researchers have developed an elaborate protocol to get children to hold still in the MRI machine by turning the procedure into a game.)

Children with a family history of developmental dyslexia showed the same brain activity as that exhibited by older children and adults with dyslexia. Children in the control group did not.

Nora Maria Raschle, PhD, also of The Labs of Cognitive Neuroscience, is the study’s lead author. She said the research could make a real difference in the lives of children with dyslexia by allowing them to get early treatment:

We hope that identifying children at risk for dyslexia around preschool or even earlier may help reduce the negative social and psychological consequences these kids often face.

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For another novel use of MRI—examining the feet of sprinters to find out what makes them so fast—see our Facebook page.

Related seminar: Pediatric Radiology—Clinical and Radiology Perspectives

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