Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Dyslexia or 'difficulty with lexicon' IS a genetic disorder and NOT because the person is un-intelligent :

This could be news that is a little dated, but the following paper from Haiying Meng, Jeffrey Gruen et. al. of the Yale University School of Medicine talks about the isolation of a gene that is responsible for dyslexia in human beings. Dyslexia or 'difficulty with lexicon' is a neurological disorder that effects between 5-17% of the population of the United States (depending upon the diagnostic criteria used). Usually when children of the age of 10 or 11 fail to develop the necessary markers with respect to reading or writing, they are labeled unintelligent. It is clear that they are as intelligent as the rest of us. Now it has been proved that dyslexia is caused due to a missing nucleotide (also called a single nucleotide polymorphism or SNPs as they are called in genetic parlance) in the DCD2 gene. The DCD2 gene is also known to be highly active in areas of the temporal cortex that are thought to be used a lot in reading and writing. People who inherit variations in this gene use less efficient methods to master skills like reading and writing (leading to the rest of us labeling the child/person un-intelligent). It is also thought that the less efficient methods that the brain uses to compensate for the deficiency produced by the SNP leads to a different rewiring of the brain during the most plastic stages of an individuals life (the first 10-12 years of life). This means that if the implicated gene can be identified in babies early on, then they can be put on specifically structured training programs that will take advantage of a infant brain's inherent plasticity to re-rewire itself in order to expose better reading and writing skills. As we know the plasticity of the brain reduces (but never dies) as the individual grows older, therefore the key here would be to get the kid into a training program as soon as the generic insufficiency is detected.

My view is that much more research will be needed in the following areas though -
  • Content of training programs to make the brain rewire
  • Proof that the rewiring does indeed result in better reading and writing skills.
I am sure that Professor Jeffrey and his team have this and a lot more of stuff like this on their brains...

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