Dyslexia study clarifies brain processes

Part of the brain linked with muscle co-ordination may play a key role in the development of dyslexia, a new study shows.

Magnetic Resonance Image showing a vertical (sagittal) cross section through a human head.

Neuroscientists have found that the cerebellum - a fist-sized region at the base of the brain - may influence how a person learns to interpret written language.

The team, led by the University, hope the research will improve understanding and diagnosis of the condition.

Distinct types of dyslexia

The researchers compared brain scans of people with dyslexia to those of people without the condition.

Dyslexia affects between five and 10 per cent of the population and has often been perceived as one disorder.

Yet the team found variation in the brain scans of different dyslexic patients, suggesting that there are a number of distinct types of the condition.

Language skills

The dyslexic patients fell into two main groups - one with an enlarged area in the cerebellum compared to normal and one with a smaller area than normal.

Both groups had lower levels of language skills than normal.

Those with a small area in the cerebellum experienced greater difficulty than those with enlarged regions.

The team believes this difference may affect the brain’s ability to learn rules about language, such as learning to recognise that two words sound different but look the same.

This research may help us to identify the different needs of dyslexia patients and to develop tailored treatment programmes for them.

Dr Cyril PernetCentre for Cognitive and Neural Systems

The results are published in Biomed Central Neuroscience.

The work was conducted in partnership with the Universities of Glasgow, the Atomic Energy Committee in Paris and the French Institute for Health Research.

The work was funded by SINAPSE and by INSERM.