Fraunhofer Institute for Cell Therapy and Immunology IZI Release: Reading Spelling Errors In A Timely Manner: Laying The Foundations For Future Early Testing

Published: Jul 21, 2017

Five years of joint research could make it possible: an early test that recognizes the widely spread literary spelling disorder (LRS), also known as dyslexia - and thus could save five percent of the children a long pain. Scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Cognitive and Neurosciences, and the Fraunhofer Institute for Cell Therapy and Immunology have succeeded in laying the foundations for a test that can predict whether a child is affected by this disorder by means of brain activity and genetic analyzes becomes. The completion of their research project LEGASCREEN provides an opportunity for a regression and outlook on LRS diagnosis.

Words stretch, break, letters are unknowable. Every 20th child, at least about one student per class desperately day by day, when it comes to writing or reading words and sentences. And with otherwise normal or high general intelligence. It suffers from the reading spelling disorder (LRS), an innate change in the brain. For the children concerned, it often means many years of school failure - usually without the true cause being recognized.

In order to spare the children this suffering, Leipzig scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Cognitive and Neurosciences (MPI CBS) and the Fraunhofer Institute for Cell Therapy and Immunology (IZI) have been working on the foundations for an LRS -feed test. Through his brain structures and genes he should be able to identify in time whether a child is affected by the LRS or not. With success.

Causes found

"We know today that two crucial changes in the brain structure of the children lead to this weakness. On the one hand, the cerebral cortex is somewhat thinner, especially in a certain region in the left hemisphere, "explains Jens Brauer, neuroscientist at the MPI CBS in Leipzig. "On the other hand, the fiber connections between the crucial linguistic realms are less pronounced, which transport the information between these brain regions as a kind of dataautomotive," adds his colleague Michael Skeide, linguist at MPI CBS.

Electroencephalography (EEG) offers a promising possibility to recognize these changes in the cerebral cortex. The child is presented with a long sequence of similar stimuli, such as a chain of the same syllable or sound, which is interrupted only occasionally by a different sound or sound. If it is easy for children to recognize these irregularities and show their brain activities in these areas the characteristic eruptions, their writings are usually well developed. If this is not the case, this is an important indication of an impending LRS. "Using these investigations, we can recognize the neuronal response if the speech-relevant information is processed differently than normal and thus identify the person concerned -

Genes and brain activity

Nevertheless, the pure prognosis based on the EEG is not strong enough. Therefore, the scientists also want to use the meaningfulness of the genes. Because the LRS is 50 to 70 percent genetic and therefore could be diagnosed with a simple saliva test even more accurately. As a prerequisite for this, scientists from Fraunhofer IZI have succeeded in identifying a comprehensive list of DNA variations that are involved in the disorder in German dyslexia patients. "For the first time, for example, we were able to prove that the long-suspected gene KIAA0319 actually has an influence on how we heard speech at an early stage by influencing the sound processing in the brain stem," explains Arndt Wilcke, neurogenetics at Fraunhofer IZI.

Finally, Wilcke and his team of 25 DNA variants, which are particularly important for the LRS, have developed a genetic risk score that combines the negatively altered gene variants. The more gene variants are found in a child who is associated with the LRS, the higher is the score and the higher the risk of being affected by an LRS. Some of these DNA segments could already patent the neurogeneticists as so-called marker genes, ie signals for a threatening LRS. "For some of them we could even demonstrate that they are directly related to the results of the syllable tasks of the EEG examinations. If a child carries these variants within himself, the probability of the problem with the irregularities in the syllable chain is not great. "

"By combining the evidence from brain and genetics, we hope to have an even higher hit rate in the future. By the time, however, both individual procedures need to be refined and reviewed in an independent sample. It will then be shown whether our results so far can be confirmed and applied in an early test, "Wilcke said. "We are, however, confident that we will make the decisive progress in the next few years so that a simple and precise diagnosis procedure via EEG and saliva sample is within reach," he adds. Their objective is therefore to bring this to market maturity in the coming years.

Parents advocate early

The results of a representative survey among parents of children between the ages of three and seven, ie the later target group, show that such an early test would have a positive impact. Almost 90 per cent of respondents rated it as meaningful, more than 80 per cent would have their own child examined with it - more than half of it even if the health insurance company did not take over the costs.

Even Chancellor Angela Merkel already showed great interest in such a test procedure. In February of this year, she invited the Legascreen project to introduce herself as one of ten particularly innovative research projects within the framework of the "Pearls of Research" event . In this, Project Director Angela D. Friederici explained her vision to the Chancellor: "If we manage to capture a large part of the affected children in the course of preventive examinations in good time before the beginning of the school year, targeted support opportunities in this sensitive phase of brain development can compensate for many deficits. We do not just spare them suffering in school. We also offer them the same chance of successful training,

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