Learning Disabilities Linked to Slow Brain Development

By , July 11th, 2013 | Health | 1 Comment

The brains of people with learning problems appear to develop more slowly than those of unaffected individuals and may prematurely stop developing during puberty, according to research.

Millions of people worldwide suffer from learning disorders, such as dyslexia, but the cause of these disorders is unclear. Researchers from Northwestern University, Illinois studied 54 children and adults who had been diagnosed with one of three learning problems (dyslexia, specific language impairment, or central auditory processing disorder), as well as 61 individuals who had no suspected learning difficulties.

The researchers measured participants’ ability to detect a tone in the presence of a background noise in five tests. On each test, children with learning problems performed like the control group who were approximately 2-4 years younger. These results suggest that the brains of children with learning problems develop more slowly than normal. Interestingly, adults with learning problems never caught up on test performance, whereas performance in normal individuals continued to improve after 10 years of age. This pattern suggests that brain changes taking place around 10 years of age, possibly associated with puberty, may prematurely halt slower-than-normal brain development.

The scientists propose that delayed brain development, and its interaction with puberty, may be key factors contributing to learning problems.

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