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Dyslexia and Reading Disorders | Overview

BOLD: Boston Longitudinal Study of Dyslexia

  • Participants: Pre-readers ages 4-6, with and without a family history of developmental dyslexia

Developmental dyslexia is a common learning disability, which affects 5-17% of children. In this study, we aim to use both behavioral and neuroimaging measures to shed light on brain development in pre-reading children, both with and without a family history of dyslexia. By identifying differences between these two groups, we aim to allow for the early prediction of dyslexia. This would translate to more effective interventions before a child ever enters school and begins learning to read, resulting in the easing of the clinical, psychological, and social difficulties that are often assocated with dyslexia. We will follow our participants for four years as they go through the process of becoming readers. 

For full participation details, contact the Gaab Lab via e-mail or at 857-218-3022.

Detecting Early Signs of Dyslexia in Infancy

  • Participants: typically-developing infants between 3 to 15 months of age.

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 in our nursery at Children’s Hospital Waltham.  During your visit, we try to re-create your baby’s typical napping routine at home in our nursery.  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.