Detecting Early Signs of Dyslexia in Infancy

Brief Description

In this study, we are investigating early language and brain development.  We aim to identify early neural markers of dyslexia in infants in order to better understand the developmental trajectory of reading development and disability.

Eligibility for Study Participation

We are currently recruiting typically-developing infants for this study

  • 2 to 12 months of age
  • born at or after 37 weeks gestation
  • with or without a family history of dyslexia. A family history of dyslexia means that your child has had a parent with a clinical diagnosis of developmental dyslexia (e.g.; a doctor, psychologist or reading specialist gave the diagnosis).  

Participation Details

This study involves a one-time visit to our research center in Waltham or Boston, followed by subsequent visits when the child is a toddler and then in early childhood. Study participation will involve approximately 3 hours of your time per visit, scheduled at your convenience

Research Contact (Gaab Laboratory)

Full Description

Developmental dyslexia is a learning disability characterized by difficulties with accurate or fluent reading and poor spelling.  Researchers have shown that the brains of children and adults diagnosed with dyslexia are organized differently than those of other people the same age, and have also provided evidence that susceptibility to dyslexia may run in families.  In our studies, we aim to find early signs of dyslexia in order identify struggling readers sooner and give them the right support system early on.  Dyslexia is known to run in families, meaning that if one family member has dyslexia or a reading difficulty, then the child has a higher risk of dyslexia.  In looking at the brain, we already see differences in children with a family history of dyslexia compared to those without, before they have even started learning to read.  We are trying to identify how early these brain differences appear, how they develop over time, and whether they can be used to identify children who are at risk for dyslexia in preschool or even in infancy.

In this study we will compare the brain images of infants with and without a family history of developmental dyslexia using Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI).  MRI is a safe and non-invasive imaging method many researchers and clinicians use to take pictures of the brain.  We will utilize age-specific behavioral techniques and innovative MRI technology in order to safely acquire these brain images without using any sedation or anesthesia.   To accomplish this, we take pictures of the brain while babies are naturally sleeping.  During your visit, we try to re-create your baby’s typical napping routine.  We work to personalize every try based on the parent-infant napping routine, whether that means allowing mom to nurse and rock her baby to sleep, placing the baby in an MRI-safe crib to fall asleep independently, or playing with the baby until he/she gets sleepy. If we are successful taking pictures of the baby brain families can take home a CD with their baby’s brain picture.