Testing how well preschoolers can recognize sounds such as “dah” predicts reading difficulties, according to a Northwestern study published in PLOS Biology.
Early intervention could help children develop their auditory processing skills, said senior author Nina Kraus, director of Northwestern’s Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory.
The new study used an EEG to directly measure the brain’s response to sound, attaching electrodes to children’s scalps and recording the patterns of electric activity as nerve cells fired. The youngsters sat still to watch a video of their choice, listening to the soundtrack in one ear while an earpiece in the other periodically piped in the sound “dah” superimposed over a babble of talking.
The 30-minute test predicted how well 3-year-olds performed a language-development skill and how those same youngsters fared a year later on several standard pre-reading assessments, the team reported.
In tests of older children, the EEG scores correlated with their reading competence.