Dyslexic children and adults who undergo reading intervention have demonstrated behavioral improvements including improved single word reading, pseudoword reading, reading comprehension, phonemic awareness, rapid naming, and symbol imagery. While many studies have been conducted to demonstrate this, what has been relatively unknown up to this point is that this reading intervention can also result in changes in gray matter volume (GMV). Gray matter is located in several regions of the brain and is involved with muscle control and sensory perception such as seeing and hearing, memory, emotions, and speech. Increased volume of gray matter could be beneficial to dyslexics who may have trouble in some of these areas.

The study was conducted on eleven young, dyslexic children (average age being 9.1 years). It was comprised of three separate parts: the initial condition of the subjects (T1), the period after an eight-week reading intervention (T2), and the period after an eight-week null program with no intervention (T3). The reading intervention period consisted of several imaging/visualization as well as tactile/motor aspects.

At each interval (T1, T2, and T3) a number of highly reliable behavioral tests were conducted on the subjects as well as anatomical scans. The researchers were blind to the child’s status of intervention. The data was then collected and analyzed by experts to determine GMV change and how this correlated with the amount of reading improvement.

The results showed that there were significant increases in the scores for the behavioral aspects being tested between T1 and T2, showing that the children showed significant gains in reading (working memory was not affected). There were not significant changes between T2 and T3, showing that the initial improvements were a direct result of the reading intervention. Further study of the brain scans also showed a significant increase in GMV in all parts of the brain between T1 and T2 by anywhere from 2.55-3.40%. There is a positive correlation between both the behavioral improvements and the increase of GMV.

This is the first study of this kind to be conducted, and it shows that changes in brain structure are brought about by intervention. This is encouraging in that it shows that reading intervention can lead to lasting behavioral and structural changes in dyslexic children. Now, further studies can be conducted to show how these findings can be translated into classroom settings in order to improve the learning experience for children with dyslexia.

"Gray matter volume changes following reading intervention in dyslexic children" Anthony J. Krafnick, D. Lynn Flowers, Eileen M. Napoliello, Guinevere F. Eden [1].