People With Dyslexia Have Difficulty Not Just Reading Words, But Recognizing Voices

By Valerie Ross | August 3, 2011 2:53 pm

What’s the News: While most people think of dyslexia as primarily a problem with reading, people with dyslexia seem to have trouble processing the spoken language, as well. A new study published last week Science found that people with dyslexia have a harder time recognizing voices than other people do.

How the Heck:

  • Participants in the study–half of whom were dyslexic–watched and listened to cartoon characters on a computer. Each character had a distinct voice, and spoke either English, the participants’ native language, or Mandarin Chinese.
  • The participants were then played a clip of each voice and asked to match it to the correct character.
  • People without reading difficulties were better at recognizing voices speaking their native language. They could correctly pick out which character went with a voice about two-thirds of the time if the voice was speaking English, and only about half the time if it was speaking Mandarin.
  • Dyslexics, on the other hand, showed no native language boost. It didn’t matter if a voice was speaking English or Mandarin: they correctly matched it with a character around half the time either way.

What’s the Context:

The Future Holds:

Reference: Tyler K. Perrachione, Stephanie N. Del Tufo, & John D. E. Gabrieli. “Human Voice Recognition Depends on Language Ability.” Science, July 29, 2011. DOI: 10.1126/science.1207327

  • George Holland

    You do not develop dyslexia. You do not cure dyslexia. You just learn to cope with it.

  • 462356

    That will be the case until it isn’t. There’s no place for such negativity, especially in the face of genuinely new and potentially significant information.

  • George Holland

    When you have a child with dyslexia the sooner the parents realize there is no magic cure the sooner they can begin to help their child. It is not negative. With early diagnosis you can help the child tremedously. With great teachers and an outstanding school program my son progressed to the point he is now a teacher himself.

  • ganesh

    By merely insisting that a dyslexic person has received great help from existing strategies one cannot assume that other strategies based on new knowledge will not be effective. By that rationale, a diabetic who gets insulin injections will do fine but a person with an insulin pump wouldn’t be. Our scientific understanding of communication, learning and social disorders is quite basic, let alone our knowledge of how the brain works. People like G.H.’s son can be helped by advances in these fields.

  • phyllis books

    We have learned more about the brain in the last ten years than throughout recorded history. And what the new “proof” reveals via MRIs, PET scans and other highly sophisticated measuring instruments, is that dyslexia does not have to be permanent. The brain is very capable of healing and rewiring. I find this incredibly encouraging. It is a new paradigm and requires an opening of the mind to new possibilities. I know parents get discouraged when the mainstream mantra perpetuates the outdated belief that dyslexia is permanent. But truly, there are so many new ways of reversing dyslexia. I think all the new scientific studies point us to early intervention and real help for this age old problem.

  • George Holland

    I do not really disagree with either ganish or phillis. Improved strategies are already helping. Continued reasearch is important and maybe someday these strategies will lead to a cure. If there are ways to reverse dyslexia, they have not yet told the teachers in the classrooms.

  • gina

    coping is what we do. dyslexia is frustration. I can read(not out loud) and understand everything, but I can’t articulate the way Ganesh and Phyllis have. I takes to long to look up every word I want to spell.

  • Maša

    Slovenian writer claims that he has foudn the way to cure dyslexia. They are now testing his theory and they have already cured one child. Now they continue to use the same therapy on bigger group… I can’t wait for results :)

    Greetings from Slovenia :)

  • DirectionForLearning

    Decades of research culminated in 1998 with the first brain scan showing us what research had already indicated was happening in the brain—-missing language pathways. Then researchers went on to show that the successful remediation of reading and spelling— that dyslexia academies have used since Dr. Orton and has assistance came up with the Orton-Gillingham method— is in fact laying down those missing language pathways.

    In short, we can see the cause of dyslexia and we can see the effects of the right kind of remediation on brain scans. Dyslexia and how to remediate reading and spelling is no longer a mystery. It’s just that accurate information is incredibly slow to spread. You can find links to the research and thorough, research-based information, plus myth-busting on the website at http://www.BrightSolutions.US (not my website). You can also find the scientific research-based information in the book Overcoming Dyslexia, written by Dr. Sally Shaywitz, one of the U.S. NIH researchers who worked on these studies and mentioned in the NY Times article on this topic.

    Carol, a certified dyslexia tester, certified tutor, parent to child with dyslexia, and wife to husband with dyslexia

    Those with dyslexia have other difficulties, such as rote memory weakness, but the primary difficulty is the reading/spelling. Meanwhile, those with dyslexia get to keep their incredible, wonderful visual-spatial strengths.


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