Malaga university researchers make major breakthrough to enable earlier diagnosis of dyslexic children

Malaga university researchers make major breakthrough to enable earlier diagnosis of dyslexic children

The discovery will allow the earlier diagnosis of this disorder at ages when speech is not yet fully developed

Europa Press


Friday, 3 May 2024, 15:36


A team of researchers from the University of Malaga (UMA), in collaboration with Northumbria University in the UK, has confirmed in a study funded by the regional ministry of university, research and innovation that the brains of dyslexic people process language differently due to atypical connectivity.

The results of this work allow a better understanding of the processes that occur and an earlier diagnosis of this disorder at ages when speech is not yet fully developed, according to the regional ministry in a statement on Wednesday, in which it stated that, with these advances, "the application of educational measures aimed at favouring the correct development of learning is favoured".

The regional ministry highlighted that dyslexia is a disorder that affects the ability to read and write fluently. It is usually diagnosed when the child begins to learn the language and there is difficulty in recognising words or understanding the meaning of what they read.

There are "numerous educational strategies to support adequate educational progress", according to the regional ministry, which points out that "early detection can reduce these specific learning needs if they are applied before the child consolidates his or her knowledge of language, when he or she is still developing orality".

International Journal of Neural Systems

This project, published in the International Journal of Neural Systems, has devised a method for calculating connectivity in the brain, based on the Granger causality analysis, which examines the relationships between signals in different regions and helps identify how they interact with each other.

Granger causality analysis establishes whether or not event B is a consequence of event A or, in other words, whether or not A is the cause of B. One area receives a stimulus and provides a response which, in turn, may influence another. However, a dyslexic person's brain is different, so that the connectivity between different areas is greater. Thus, some areas have an influence on others, but some areas should not be involved. When there is an excess in these cause-effect relationships, there is a poor processing of the stimulus and, therefore, difficulty in managing the message.

The trials involved the study of electroencephalography (EEG) signals from both normotypical and dyslexic children. They were subjected to white noise that has the same effect on the brain as syllabic and prosodic frequency - intonation. The use of neutral sound avoids failures in understanding meanings and providing emotions for specific concepts.

Increased cause-effect activity

Sounds are processed in the brain as electrical waves that stimulate different areas and connect them. The experts confirmed that while in the control group the brain areas that were excited were well defined and followed a specific pattern, in people with dyslexia they had more cause-effect activity.

The findings indicate that the differences are found mainly with the Theta and Gamma frequency bands, which are related to difficulties in language processing, attention, perception and handwriting comprehension.

The experts have produced a complete map of the cause-effect relationships that occur in the brain of a person with dyslexia, making it possible to determine existing anomalies before the child is confronted with language development. Even so, the researchers are continuing their work to improve the technique and are considering the same study with other signal processing techniques to refine their conclusions and obtain a more accurate picture of how the brain works in this setting.

The work has been funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) through the project Early Detection of Developmental Dyslexia: a study of the spectral connectivity of EEG signals guided by allophonic theory of the Junta de Andalucía.

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