Neuroscientists at Georgetown University Medical Center have found that an area known to be important for reading in the left visual cortex contains neurons that are specialized to process written words as whole word units. Although some theories of reading as well as neuropsychological and experimental data have argued for the existence of a neural representation for whole written real words (an "orthographic lexicon"), evidence for this has been elusive. "Reading relies on neural representations that are experience dependent, " says senior author Maximilian Riesenhuber, PhD, of the GUMC Laboratory for Computational Cognitive Neuroscience. "Evolution did not provide each of us with a little dictionary in our heads." Because the findings, published in the April 30 issue of Neuron, shed light on how written words are processed in the brain, they also provide clues as to how reading disorders such as dyslexia could arise, Riesenhuber says.
Yale School of Medicine scientist Jeffrey R. Gruen, M.D., has received a $5.2 million grant from the Manton Foundation to further his research on the genetics of dyslexia. Gruen's discovery of a gene involved in dyslexia was named one of the top 10 scientific breakthroughs of 2005 by the journal Science. Gruen, associate professor of pediatrics and genetics, will use the grant monies to launch a new study that will compare the complete genomes of $1, 000 dyslexic children with those of 1, 000 fluent readers to obtain a fine-grained view of genes that are known to play a role in reading disabilities, and possibly to identify new genes that confer a risk of developing dyslexia. "I have a folder full of e-mails from desperate parents who've read about our work and hope that I can provide some sage advice to help the third grader who comes home crying in frustration or the bright high school student whose horrible standardized test scores make college seem out of reach, " said Gruen.
Researchers at the Center for Molecular and Behavioral Neuroscience (CMBN) at Rutgers University in Newark have identified the need to develop a new framework for understanding "perceptual stability" and how we see the world with their discovery that visual input obtained during eye movements is being processed by the brain but blocked from awareness. The process of seeing requires the eyes to move so light can hit the photoreceptors at the center of each retina, which then pass that information to the brain. If we were cognizant of the stimulus that passes before the eyes during the two to three times they move every second, however, vision would consist of a series of sensations of rapid motion rather than a stable perception of the world. To achieve perceptual stability, current theory has held that visual information gained during an eye movement is eliminated, as if cut off by a camera's shutter, and removed from processing.
Parts of the right hemisphere of the brains of people with dyslexia have been shown to differ from those of normal readers. Researchers writing in the open access journal BMC Neuroscience used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to compare the two groups, and were able to associate the neurological differences found with different language difficulties within the dyslexic group. Cyril Pernet, from the University of Edinburgh, worked with a team of researchers to compare the brains of 38 people with dyslexia to a model 'typical brain' created by combining the scans of 39 normal readers. In all cases, differences could be seen in either the right cerebellar declive or the right lentiform nucleus. These were associated with varying performance in language tests. It is increasingly accepted that dyslexia is not a unique entity, but might reflect different neuro-cognitive pathologies.
As the UK enters a summer of discontent, one company has a vision to make the outlook decidedly brighter - by looking at life through blue-tinted spectacles. Wearing blue lenses has a calming effect, can reduce appetite and even help with dyslexia. Now online optics specialists Ciliary Blue are offering blue views to cheer up a nation blighted by recession, redundancies and bank balances in the red. "People will be amazed at the power of looking at life from a blue perspective, " says Chris Tomlinson of Ciliary Blue. "It may sound incredibly simple but choosing the right shade for your shades could change your whole outlook." "Johnny Depp famously wears blue lenses and we think this depressing summer is the perfect time for everyone in the UK to see the world differently." Research shows that wearing blue lenses can reduce appetite, due to the colour naturally being associated with mouldy food.