Memory — not perception — might be key to dyslexia

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CREDIT: Daniel Paxton/Flickr, via Wired

Dyslexia is a frustrating disorder that gives otherwise smart people trouble with reading. Nobody knows exactly what causes it, but one popular hypothesis is that the root of the problem is a deficit in the brain’s ability to process sounds, especially during childhood. But if parsing sounds is really the whole problem, how do you explain dyslexic musicians?

Researchers led by psychologist Merav Ahissar tested 52 musicians on basic auditory perception, as well as auditory perception related specifically to music or language. They also gave the musicians memory tests and tested their reading speed and accuracy.

On most tests of auditory perception, the dyslexic musicians scored as well as their non-dyslexic counterparts, and better than the general population. Where they performed much worse was on tests of auditory working memory, the ability to keep a sound in mind for a short time (typically seconds).

Ahissar and her team suggest that auditory working memory might be a bottleneck for the performance of people with dyslexia. If so, that might shift more of researchers’ attention to memory-related brain regions in addition to the auditory areas that have gotten most of the attention in dyslexia research.

Read the full, original article: What Musicians Can Tell Us About Dyslexia and the Brain

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