The term dyslexia describes a difficulty with language and words. Common problem areas include spelling, comprehension, reading and identification of words.
We are investigating the brain circuitry underlying reading, which will help us identify the deficits underlying the problem and improve efforts to remediate poor reading.
In evolutionary terms, the ability to read is something very, very recent. Our species has likely only used language to communicate for about 100,000 years. As a result, the brain ‘circuits’ that are involved in reading are relatively new and not solely dedicated to reading. This means that there are many potential disruptors of these circuits and many potential underlying causes of reading difficulties.
Also, reading is a complex skill that involves coordinated visual, auditory, memory and retrieval tasks. As the cause of dyslexia may differ subtly from one person to the next, we need more than a one-size-fits-all approach to treatment.
The Rae Group is interested in the brain circuitry underlying reading. Specifically, we are looking at what happens in the brain when we read by different routes, namely the phonological and lexical routes.
For instance, you can read a word like RANE using the phonological route, even though RANE isn’t really a proper word. But if you try this approach on a word like YACHT, you will not end up reading the word correctly, as YACHT is not a word that you can read correctly using phonological rules. Instead, you have an internal dictionary, or lexicon, that you look up to see if you recognise YACHT. If you’ve seen it before and you remember it, you will be able to read it. However, both routes of reading are activated to some extent when you see a word.
Someone who has difficulty with reading may have deficits in their ability to use either the phonological or lexical route. Our research is directed toward identifying specific deficits and using this information to improve reading remediation.