Friday, November 9, 2012
Reading instruction and brain development influence each other
A child's ability to read may largely depend on when that individual's brain circuitry is sufficiently developed yet capable of growth, a longitudinal study reports. Jason Yeatman and colleagues tracked reading proficiency over a 3-year period for 55 children who ranged in age from 7 to 12. Thirty-nine of those children underwent at least three scans measuring development in brain regions associated with reading skills. The measurements focused on white matter, the brain component involved in transmitting signals from one region to another.
While every child's reading skills increased from one year to the next, their skills relative to peers did not vary significantly. Compared with other children, those with above-average reading skills initially had less-developed white matter that increased over the 3-year period. In children with below-average reading skills, however, white matter development declined over time.
The authors suggest that the timing of reading instruction should perhaps take into account when an individual's brain circuitry is adequately developed but retains the potential for further plasticity. This developmental timing might not just rely upon age, but on other factors that can drive the process, such as genetics and prior life experiences. As a result, children in the future may benefit from instruction that is tailored and timed to their particular stages of brain development, according to the authors.
"Development of white matter and reading skills," by Jason Daniel Yeatman, et al.