Dyslexia, there is training that ‘trains’ the brain to memorize and read

Dyslexia, there is training that ‘trains’ the brain to memorize and read

Dyslexia is a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects approximately 7% of school-age children. It is characterized by a difficulty in automating reading which has a profound impact on academic performance, on the psychosocial well-being of children and adolescents, and in perspective, on their future inclusion. in the world of work. Although dyslexia has been the subject of study for many years, it continues to generate interest and debate in the scientific community due to its complexity and variable manifestations.

The problem is multifactorial with a mixed contribution of genetic and environmental factors. The disorder often occurs in conjunction with other neurodevelopmental conditions, particularly attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). A topic that we address on the occasion of the National Day of Intellectual Disabilities and Neurodevelopmental Disorders.

Reading words

People with dyslexia may have difficulty decoding words correctly, understanding read text and spelling. This disorder is not related to intellectual deficits or teaching deficiencies, but is rather a neurobiological condition that affects the ability to process written language.

Many individuals with dyslexia have extraordinary talents and abilities in other areas, such as art, music, mathematics or science. With the right support, individuals with dyslexia can learn to manage their difficulties and develop effective strategies to address reading and writing challenges.

The main characteristics of dyslexia include: difficulty in decoding words and associating sounds with letters, slow and laborious reading, with frequent errors in pronunciation and comprehension, difficulty in spelling and writing, with frequent errors and irregularities in the formation of words.

The role of the brain

Research suggests that dyslexia may be linked to differences in the function and connectivity of brain areas involved in processing written language, such as the left posterior temporal area of ​​the brain.

Early diagnosis and timely intervention are crucial to managing dyslexia effectively. Mental health professionals use a variety of assessment tools, including standardized tests of reading skills, diagnostic tests, and neuropsychological assessments, to identify dyslexia and assess the extent of reading difficulties.

Once diagnosed, dyslexia can be managed through a series of targeted interventions, which may include:

1) Evidence-based educational interventions, such as phonological therapy and phonemic awareness training, that aim to improve word decoding skills.
2) The use of assistive technologies, such as text-to-speech software, text readers, and spell-checking devices, to support reading and writing.
3) Psychological and psychoeducational support to address any emotional difficulties or compromised self-esteem associated with dyslexia.


In recent years, scientific research has demonstrated that it is possible to modulate brain plasticity by modulating, for a short period of time, the subject’s sensory perception, thus inducing the brain to readapt to the induced sensory modification. Prismatic adaptation is one of the procedures described in the literature that allows the neuromodulatory property to be used with prismatic lenses.

Glasses for practicing

In practice, the patient performs an exercise which in jargon is called pointing (in Italian “pointing”) while wearing special glasses with prismatic lenses. Prismatic lenses, mounted on a pair of normal glasses, are lenses obtained in a particular way so as to deviate the field of vision to the right or left. Since our brain is made up of two hemispheres which underlie different cognitive functions, the right or left rotation of the lenses is an important element in setting up the therapy.

In this way, the deviation of the visual field induced by prismatic lenses induces a “perceptual error”, which in turn activates specific areas of the brain responsible for calibrating and recalibrating the visual system, in order to correct the perceptual error. This process of calibration and recalibration, which involves different brain areas, becomes a key factor that generates support for brain plasticity.

Following the prismatic adaptation procedure, the brain enters a time window of greater plasticity, a precious time period, lasting approximately 45 minutes, in which the brain is more receptive and responds more to stimuli. This is precisely where “serious” games and their action on specific cognitive functions such as memory, attention and language come into play.

The treatments

Despite the multiple neurocognitive models of dyslexia, not much is available in terms of evidence-based treatment approaches for their effectiveness. Current treatments appear to be only partially effective and mostly train phonological or linguistic skills. However, the lively investigation into the brain bases of dyslexia beyond the phonological framework is promoting new therapeutic avenues aimed at improving reading skills indirectly, that is, by training perceptual and cognitive skills apparently compromised in the disorder. We are referring to a deficit in cognitive organization, specifically deficits in general processing speed, weaker verbal working memory (WM), planning and response inhibition.


And it is precisely in this field of research that I just published a few days ago, in collaboration with the professor Massimo Oliveri , full professor of Cognitive Neuroscience and Physiological Psychology at the University of Palermo, a work in one of the most prestigious and cited journals in the world. This is a scientific study on this rehabilitation intervention technique for the treatment of dyslexia associated with attention difficulties.

A total of 70 participants aged between 13 and 17 years, who received a first diagnosis of DD were recruited from the clinic specialized in Learning Disorders at the Division of Child and Adolescent Neuropsychiatry, University of Rome La Sapienza.

The study explores the effectiveness in dyslexia of rightward prismatic adaptation (rPA), a visuomotor adaptation technique that allows visual-attentive recalibration through shifts in the visual field induced by prismatic glasses. A digital rPA intervention plus cognitive training was delivered weekly for 10 weeks to adolescents with DD (aged 13–17 years) assigned to the treatment group or control group.

The various cognitive enhancement trainings (or neuropsychological qualification) have the aim of strengthening both domain-general cognitive functions (attention, memory, executive functions and reasoning) and domain-specific aspects related to instrumental scholastic skills (reading, writing and calculation) .

10 training sessions are enough

To our knowledge, this is the first study to evaluate the effectiveness of PA combined with cognitive training for the treatment of dyslexia. Our results demonstrate that 10 weekly sessions of the proposed intervention improved reading speed only in the treatment group, while it remained unchanged in the control group.

Furthermore, the treatment induced significant improvements in working memory and processing speeds, with processing speed showing medium correlational strength with reading speed, thus suggesting that the treatment allows for the modulation of performance-relevant cognitive functions. of reading.

In conclusion, dyslexia represents a significant challenge for those affected, but with the right support and appropriate interventions, people with dyslexia can reach their full potential and succeed in their personal, academic and professional lives.

Head of the Psychodiagnostics service for Neurodevelopmental disorders in Adolescence, Child Neuropsychiatry, Dept. of Neurosciences and Mental Health, Policlinico Umberto I – La Sapienza University of Rome

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