ESFC Part 8

Dr. Conway: When you look at brain activity, here’s the brain activity for someone who doesn’t have any reading problems. What do you notice about this brain? Here is the right side, here is the left side. Which side has more activity?

Audience : Left

Dr. Conway: That’s the typical picture of someone who doesn’t have any reading problems. The left side is supposed to do most of the work. So it’s supposed to have strong activity. Here’s a typical model that says here’s some of the major areas of the brain that are involved in these language skills. You’ve got phonological perception happening in here, you’ve got the auditory being connected to the motor, because these are some fibers that run all the way to the front, this is the part that actually moves your mouth, helps your mouth say words. This is the part back here that plays a big role in meaning. But no, the brain is not really yellow, blue and green; and no, it’s not that simple that one part has one function, it’s really much more of a distributive network. This is an fMRI meta-analysis, which means it’s twenty-five different MRI studies combined together. You see the blue dots are where their brains were being active when they’re being asked to make judgments about phonology. The green dots they are asked to make judgments about sentences and syntax, the red dots are judgments about meaning. Can you find that one meaning area now? Can you find that one phonology area, that one blue area that is just perceiving sounds? Doesn’t exist, because the brain’s actually distributing networks of information.

Dr. Conway: It’s supposed to be spread across this language cortex. Now, it isn’t region specific, so it’s not all back here, and there’s not much activity up here, it’s right through this primary language and speech cortex right here.

Dr. Conway: So when the brains’ working efficiently those parts are supposed to be doing most of the work.So again, here’s that normal reading child, strong activity on the left side. What do you think the brain activity looks like in a child who has dyslexia and is struggling to read?

Dr. Conway:Here’s the picture –what do yo use now? Where’s the activity for the child who is struggling with reading and language – right side or left side? Right side. Much more activity over here, much less activity here – which tells us this the part that’s supposed to be hardwired for language, but this child is trying to use this part, because this part is less efficiently wired. And I’m saying that literally, we literally have evidence to say it’s wired less efficiently and I’ll show you some more data about that. But here’s the big picture – the activity patterns. More activity in the right, the kid’s brain is trying the best it can to do the reading, but the right part is not really supposed to be doing reading. The right is more geared towards music, mathematics, judging pitch and tone, emotional connotation in your voice.