Intensive reading practice can change a child’s brain, according to a study published in Neuron. Several programs “improved the integrity of fibers that carry information from one part of the brain to another,” reports NPR.
Some parts recognize letters, others apply knowledge about vocabulary and syntax, and still others decide what it all means. To synchronize all these operations, the brain relies on high speed “highways” that carry information back and forth, (Marcel Just, director of the Center for Cognitive Brain Imaging at Carnegie Mellon) says.
Using a MRI, Just and colleague Timothy Keller found children 8 to 12 years old with poor reading skills had lower-quality white matter compared to typical readers. Some of the poor readers were given 100 hours of remedial reading instruction.
When they were done, a second set of MRI scans showed that the training changed “not just their reading ability, but the tissues in their brain,” Just says. The integrity of their white matter improved, while it was unchanged for children in standard classes.
Equally striking, Just says: “The amount of improvement in the white matter in an individual was correlated with that individual’s improvement in his reading ability.”
The reading instruction focused on “decoding unfamiliar words,” reports UPI.