Dyslexia has always been thought of as a learning disability having to do with literacy impairment. Many people who have it are unable to read properly when they are younger or read a lot slower than a non-dyslexic reader. They may also have trouble spelling or reading things like nonsense words.
In short, dyslexia is a learning disability in which people have trouble translating visual language into a language that the brain can understand. It happens to be one of the most common learning disabilities among children, affect anywhere from 10% – 15% of our population, according to various sources.
Until recently it has been thought of mostly as a learning disability that specifically affects the ability to read and understand writing. At Brainscape we’re always looking for the newest studies into learning topics including dyslexia. Research recently completed by scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology adds another dimension to dyslexia that helps us understand exactly what it is.
Dyslexia and Voices
Clues for Difficulties in Linguistic Processing
John Gabrieli, professor of cognitive neuroscience at MIT, and his team of graduate students performed an experiment in which they took two groups of students, one with dyslexia and one without, and exposed them to voices of English speakers coming from cartoon characters, and then to voices of Chinese speakers coming from cartoon characters. After seeing the characters and hearing their voices, they were given a test in which their task was to match the voice to the face of the person.
Overall, neither group was able to match the Chinese voice to the respective bodies with much success. However, when it came time to match the English speaking voices to their cartoon bodies, while the non-dyslexic speakers were able to match and distinguish the voices fairly well, the dyslexic students had a rate of success that almost equaled the matching that they were able to do for the Chinese voices. In order words, the dyslexic students faced difficulties matching voices to bodies no matter what the language.
This is a very significant finding because it shows that there is more to dyslexia than simply not being able to read properly. It appears to have something to do with hearing as well, which could prove to be very helpful in diagnosing children with dyslexia much earlier on in life. Many of the students with dyslexia who participated in the study were very high functioning students, referring to the fact that their dyslexia was not overly severe, yet they still had difficulties distinguishing among the English speaking voices when matching them to the cartoon characters.
In light of this study, this means that there could possibly be a way to test children when they are younger for dyslexia. Currently, many students find out that they are dyslexic around the second grade, by which time they may have already suffered learning-wise. Having found that dyslexia is also audio based would allow educators to test students earlier on using some type of voice recognition test. However, there must be a way to accurately figure this out as failing a voice recognition test may not necessarily be a sign of dyslexia.
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