Different learning difficulties do not, as previously thought, correspond to specific regions of the brain, new British research suggests.
Instead, says a team from the University of Cambridge, poor connectivity between “hubs” within the brain is much more strongly related to children’s difficulties.
Scientists have struggled to identify areas of the brain that might give rise to learning difficulties such as dyslexia, dyscalculia and developmental language disorder, or to developmental disorders such as attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Perhaps, the Cambridge team suggests somewhat provocatively, that’s because there are none.
To test this hypothesis, Duncan Astle and colleagues used machine learning to map the brain differences across 479 children: 337 referred with learning-related cognitive problems and 142 from a comparison sample.
[T]hey found the children’s brains were organised around hubs, like an efficient traffic system or social network. Those who had well-connected brain hubs had either very specific cognitive difficulties, such as poor listening skills, or had no cognitive difficulties at all.
By contrast, those with poorly connected hubs had widespread and severe cognitive problems.
The findings also may explain why drugs treatments have not been effective for developmental disorders, the researchers say.