Even before they begin learning to read, kids at risk for dyslexia show differences in brain activity on functional MRI scans.
PROBLEM: Developmental dyslexia affects about half of children with a family history of this disorder and five to 17 percent of all kids. Since it responds to early intervention, is there a way to diagnose children who are at risk before or during kindergarten to head off academic and social difficulties?
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METHODOLOGY: Children's Hospital Boston researchers led by Nora Raschle performed functional MRI imaging in 36 preschool-age children who were about five years old while they performed phonological tasks requiring them to decide whether two words started with the same speech sound. Half of the the kids came from families with a history of dyslexia.
RESULTS: Children with a familial risk for dyslexia tended to have less metabolic activity in brain regions tied to processing language sounds than kids in the control groups. Those with high activation in these areas generally had better pre-reading skills, such as rhyming, knowing letters and letter sounds, knowing when two words start with the same sound, and being able to separate sounds within a word (like saying "cowboy" without the "cow").