ARLINGTON - A new MRI-based study of
children with dyslexia by a UT Arlington professor could explain why a small
percentage of dyslexic children don’t respond to current teaching strategies.
Research by Timothy Odegard, an assistant professor of
psychology, was recently published online
and in the latest issue of the journal Neurocase.
Emily Farris, Odegard’s doctoral student, is the lead author on the paper that
details the findings from Odegard’s team.
Researchers examined functional
magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) data from 15 children – ages 8-14. They found
that children with dyslexia who responded to treatment and non-dyslexic readers
showed greater functional connections between the interior frontal regions of
their brains than dyslexic children who had not responded to treatment. The
tests were conducted while the children performed basic reading tasks.
“This is really looking at what
predicts treatment outcomes,” said Odegard, who was diagnosed with dyslexia as
a child. “We’re really looking at how the different areas of the brain work
together like a network.”
Dyslexia is a brain-based
learning disability that impairs reading ability.
Activities aimed at building
reading skills activate regions in the front and back of the left hemisphere of
the brain in typically developing children. In dyslexic children, however, frontal
regions of the left and right hemispheres of the brain working together seems
to compensate for deficits in the posterior portion of the left hemisphere
observed in these children, Odegard said.
“The hope is if we can identify biomarkers for
kids who aren’t going to respond as well to current treatment we can modify the
treatments to build on their strengths and overcome their weaknesses,” Odegard
The study being published in Neurocase was conducted in cooperation
with Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children and UT Southwestern Medical Center,
where Odegard is a member of the graduate school faculty. Besides Farris and
Odegard, co-authors include researchers from UT Southwestern, UT Austin, and
In the near future, Odegard and
colleagues from Scottish Rite, UT Southwestern, Southern Methodist University
and the Shelton School in Dallas hope to build on the current findings with a
five-year study of MRI data focused on a much larger sample population.
Reid Lyon, distinguished
professor at SMU’s Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education and Human
Development and distinguished scientist in cognition and neuroscience at UT
Dallas’ Center for Brain Health, has signed on to collaborate with Odegard on
future work. He said the UT Arlington professor is making “major scientific
contributions” by using neuroimaging to better understand the acquisition of
“Tim’s research has broken new
ground in determining the extent to which connections between these neural
systems influence reading development and whether limitations in connectivity
are related to dyslexia and other reading difficulties,” Lyon said.
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