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Firing Up the Brain

picture by Jos Schmid

Children learn to read in playful ways. But it’s not always easy for them to connect the abstract groups of letters with their meaning. Neurobiologist Silvia Brem researches how children learn to read and how those with reading difficulties can be helped. The assistant professor of cognitive neuroscience in children and adolescents wants to find out how the brain activity in children with reading difficulties differs from children who learn to read and write without any problems. This knowledge should make it possible to recognize reading difficulties at as early a stage as possible and thus support the children affected.

Dyslexia, or difficulty with reading and writing, is usually spotted when a child is in 2nd grade or thereabouts, but is sometimes not picked up until years later. For children suffering from dyslexia, reading is hard work. A problem of this kind usually means reading fluency is reduced, and it is therefore difficult for the children to actually understand what they are reading. It can also affect the children's sense of well-being: Schoolchildren with dyslexia can develop emotional and mental disorders as well as psychosomatic illnesses. They often have a difficult time at school and also later on in their careers, and may suffer from their difficulties all their lives. But dyslexia has nothing to do with intelligence.

Silvia Brem’s research group uses brain imaging techniques to show how the brain processes written words. The "GraphoLearn" grame, developed by a research group from Finland, is beeing investigated by Brem and her team order to fine-tune the game. The initial assessment showed pleasing results. Even after only eight hours of training, users could read made-up words more accurately.

The research team are still looking for participants for the LeselernApp study. Children with German mother tongue who are in 1st to 3rd grade or 5th grade can take part. For information on the study and to register go to:

UZH Magazin