Scientists have spent a lot of time searching for the causes of dyslexia as well as useful therapies. Recently, many scientists have taken a turn in their research and begun to identify ways in which people with dyslexia may have skills that are superior to those of typical readers, particularly in certain artistic and scientific fields.

​Among these advantages, scientists believe that many people with dyslexia have distinctive perceptual abilities. In particular, Gadi Geiger and Jerome Lettvin, cognitive scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, have found that people with dyslexia have sharper peripheral vision than others. Their research has provided evidence that the brain separately processes information that streams from the central and peripheral areas of the visual field. Their research also shows that if an individual is adept at focusing on details located in the center of the visual field, which is the key to reading, then he or she will be less proficient at recognizing features in the periphery. The opposite is also true which is why people with dyslexia, who have a bias in favor of the visual periphery, can do better taking in a scene as a whole, but may struggle with the visual skills required for reading.

Upside of a Dyslexic Brain

Image source: Time Magazine


​But does this talent for the periphery translate into real-life skills? Although people with dyslexia are found in every profession, observers have found that they populate fields like art and design in unusually high numbers. The Laboratory for Visual Learning in the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics has explored the advantages conferred by dyslexia in visually intensive branches of science. They have found that dyslexia may enhance the ability of people to carry out tasks such as making sense of enormous amounts of visual data and accurately detect patterns which these jobs require.

​Continuing to identify the distinctive aptitudes of those with dyslexia will permit us to understand the condition more completely, as well as allow people to build on their strengths.

The source material for this post was a Time Magazine article which has since been taken offline.