Monday, June 21, 2010

Dyslexia: Learning difficulties may be centred in the eye

Dyslexia: Learning difficulties may be centred in the eye

Inside the eye, the retina contains a number of cells that respond to specific types of stimuli. Some react to certain colours, while others react to contrast or movement.

These cells individually gather information that combined provides our overall visual experience. One group of cells is called magno cells. These are the cells that respond to rapid movements, transmitting signals from the eye to the brain.

The information they send transforms what we see into live video. Without these cells, our brains would only perceive a series of still photos with no direct relationship, much like a comic book.

NTNU researchers suspect that the failure of magno cells to work the way they should may explain multiple learning disabilities and developmental problems.

From motor skills to math problems

Imagine that you are trying to catch a ball. If you can't quite perceive how the ball travels in relation to your body, you will be a bit awkward when you try to catch it. Or, as the experts say: Your motor skills are less precise than they should be.

But individuals who suffer from motor skill difficulties often have other problems too: Between three and eight per cent of school children have great difficulty learning mathematics (dyscalculia). About half of these individuals also have reading difficulties (dyslexia), and motor development problems.

It has long been known that several types of learning disabilities often occur together but the cause for this has not been understood.

Understanding leads to healing

understanding the underlying causes of learning disabilities can lead to a new approach to pedagogical methods. Children with dysfunctional magno cells probably need more specific tools to help them understand visual information than we previously thought. "The educational challenge is finding teaching techniques that make it easier for visual information to get to the areas of the brain where it will be processed further,"

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