A new article in PLoS Biology describes research into a neurophysiological marker that might identify children likely to struggle when they begin to read.
According to the article, it has long been argued that reading skills are linked to the processing of rapid auditory information, meaning that struggling readers have particular problems with auditory temporal processing. Although neural markers of reading skills have been identified in school-aged children and adults, it was not known whether these markers are present in pre-reading children.
The researchers conducted a series of experiments with 112 children aged 3–14. They measured the precision of the neural coding of consonants in noise, and found that pre-reading children (age 4) with stronger neural processing had superior early literacy skills; one year later they were also stronger emerging readers. When the same neural coding measure was used with a cohort of older children, it predicted these children’s literacy achievement, and could also reliably predict which of the children had received a diagnosis of a reading impairment.
The authors conclude that their findings suggest that neural processing of consonants in noise is fundamental for language and reading development, and this may allow the early identification of children at risk of language learning problems.
Source: Auditory Processing in Noise: A Preschool Biomarker for Literacy (2015), PLoS Biology.