It has long been considered that dyslexia imparts cognitive advantages in individuals. Indeed, anecdotal reports and clinical observations have given evidence that people with dyslexia have superior visuospatial processing abilities compared to those without dyslexia. Recently, research from Haskins Laboratories has begun to show that this may indeed be true.

The researchers from Haskins used cognitive tasks and functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) to show that behaviorally, individuals with dyslexia showed a visuospatial processing advantage on a geometric figure processing task. They could perform the task faster than their non­dyslexic peers while maintaining the same level of accuracy.

The researchers also found that cortical and subcortical fMRI activation patterns suggest a possible neural tradeoff in which those with dyslexia process figures with greater facility while their non­dyslexic peers have a print­processing advantage. This study lends support to the hypothesis that people with dyslexia might possess certain types of visuospatial processing strengths.

This study is important because it gives scientific evidence to the belief that the dyslexic brain is not associated with disadvantages across all domains. While there may be a weakness in reading, there may also be a strong development of more effective cognitive functions in domains such as visuospatial processing. While this is certainly exciting new evidence, it is still unknown whether these types of strengths are a cause or a consequence of dyslexia. Further research will have to be conducted to determine the answer to that question.

To read more about the Haskins study as well as a Q&A with Dr. Ken Pugh, the President and Director of Research at Haskins, visit the IDA website.