For quite some time, researchers have been trying to understand the brain mechanisms that result in the condition known as dyslexia. For scientists, it is a fascinating condition because it can present in a variety of ways, and the issues seem to arise from a number of different neural processes. It is a complex puzzle, the kind that researchers love!
Interestingly, researchers have used musical training (learning) to understand dyslexia better. This is, in part, because reading music and reading language use an overlapping neural network. Even so, many children diagnosed with dyslexia are able to read music but still struggle to read words. Others struggle with both, and thus deepens the mystery. Researchers have also been trying to understand how our auditory processing – our processing of sound – might play an important and foundational role in dyslexia.
Below is an abstract from a paper which does a really good job of explaining the possible connection between auditory processing and dyslexia. We have added in a few comments and definitions to help explain what they are talking about.
“Learning to read proceeds smoothly for most children, yet others struggle to translate verbal language into its written form. Poor readers often have a host of auditory, linguistic, and attention deficits, including abnormal neural representation of speech and inconsistent performance on psychoacoustic tasks.” Herein lie the mystery and complexity of dyslexia.
“We hypothesize that this constellation of deficits associated with reading disorders arises from the human auditory system failing to respond to sound in a consistent manner, and that this inconsistency impinges upon the ability to relate phonology (contrasting speech sounds) and orthography (conventional spelling) during reading.” The keyword here is consistency, and this is where music training seems to have helped some students improve their auditory processing.
“In support of this hypothesis, we show that poor readers have significantly more variable auditory brainstem responses to speech than do good readers, independent of resting neurophysiological noise (noise in our brains) levels. Thus, neural variability may be an underlying biological contributor to well established behavioral and neural deficits found in poor readers.”
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So the exciting part may be, that with this hypothesis we could diagnose children who were more likely to develop dyslexia by the time they reach reading age and provide auditory interventions, possibly musically based, that could improve their auditory consistency.
Watch this space!