Scientists at MIT have discovered that dyslexics have trouble recognizing voices speaking their own language. In this study, participants — all of them high-functioning college students — were presented with cartoon characters who spoke either English or Chinese, and were asked after a short viewing to identify auditorily which voice belonged to which character.

The results showed that when nondyslexic English speakers were good at identifying which voice went with which character when the characters spoke English, and less so when characters spoke Chinese. For dyslexics, however, there was essentially no difference in voice recognition rate between the English and Chinese cartoon characters, suggesting that the reading difficulties in dyslexia are based on problems in how the brain distinguishes words and speech sounds. These findings have already spurred further research aimed at comparing which brain regions are active in dyslexics and nondyslexics during voice recognition, as well as investigating whether dyslexics perform differently than nondyslexics on tests of facial recognition.