Stanford University Study Finds Significant Differences in White Matter Processes Related to Children's Reading Development
Published: Oct 10, 2012
Researchers from Stanford and Israel's Bar Ilan University have found that differences in the rates at which white matter develops in children's brains may, as they write in their paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, account for differences in their ability to learn to read. White matter is composed of largely myelinated nerve fibers through which neural messages are passed among areas of grey matter. According to the study's authors, previous research has established that "white matter tissue properties are highly correlated with reading proficiency." The brain process of myelination protects neural fibers, while pruning eliminates those fibers deemed extraneous. The rate and timing of both processes are considered in the current study as they relate to the children's reading development. Differences in growth patterns in the brain can have a significant impact on the ability to learn to read, the researchers say, if such learning occurs at a less-than-optimal time.