Mindhacks is hosting the latest Encephalon, a blog-wandering, bi-weekly round-up of all things neurological. A couple of links I found interesting. Minding the Aging Brain looks at brain training and PsychCentral has coverage of light therapy in Mood Lighting Webcomic.
Over the last few weeks this website has been attracting comments from various members and ex-members of staff of the Dore Achievement Centres. This has come to the attention of the CEO of UK branch, Bob Clarke, who has posted comments on Myomancy and also to Wynford Dore himself who has phoned me. Conversations with Wynford are always enjoyable but challenging because Wynford believes so passionately about what he does. So when Myomancy runs a negative story about the Dore Program he tends to forget all the places on Myomancy where I’ve said the Dore Program works and that it changes lives.
In light of all this I thought it wise to make a clear statement to all my readers about why I devote a considerable amount of time and money to running Myomancy.
- The goal of Myomancy is to provide independent information on treatments for dyslexia, ADHD and autism so that parents and sufferers can make an informed choice about what is the best approach for them.
- Myomancy is a blog, a personal web site. It represents my views and my views alone on all things connected with ADHD, dyslexia and Autism.
- These views are researched and expressed on Myomancy to the best of my abilities but I am not a scientist, teacher or a professional writer. I am just someone who’s life was changed by the Dore Program and felt a need to express myself.
- I believe in free speech which is why I allow anyone to post comments on the articles regardless of whether they are for or against my views. Only post that are illegal or purely offensive are removed.
- Myomancy generates a small amount of income for advertising. I would like it to be more so that I can afford to spend more time on Myomancy. It is up to the reader to decide what, if any, impact that has on the independence of Myomancy.
With reference to the above I have removed one comment from the website that is highly critical of the Dore Program and, based on additional evidence I have at my disposal, is completely false.
Mike Juggins is an artist and illustrator who also happens to be dyslexic. To explain his experiences and views on dyslexia he has created a short film, Dyslexia, Visual Jazz. The film is beautifully made and has a very professional feel to it.
Mike’s take on dyslexia is that it is an issue of learning styles and not any neurological problem. He argues that our school systems are too focused on an auditory based learning and fails to accommodate visual and kinetic learners. On the way he takes a pop at ‘business men selling cures’ and promotes an attitude reminiscent of the neurodiversity movement.
This film is pleasing and entertaining to watch and well worth four minutes of your time.
Following a comment on the article Does Light Therapy Work? Some Real Evidence At Last I wanted to look into what effect the flickering of a TV screen has on the brain. As someone who watches too much TV and sits in front of computer monitor all day it is an issue close to my heart.
A TV screen refreshes the picture at 60 times a second (60hz) in the US and 50 times a second (50hz) in Europe. This refreshing happens to fast to consciously see but does it still have an effect?
The first information I found was related to photosensitive epilepsy, i.e. convulsions trigger by flickering lights. According to Professor Harding almost 50% of photosensitive epilepsy patients are sensitive to the european flicker rate where as on 15% are sensitive to the US rate.
Next is Entrainment to Video Displays in Primary Visual Cortex of Macaque and Humans [ PDF ]. This study found that cells in the V1 area of visual cortex did become entrained. Entrainment was greater when the display included strongly contrasted patterns.
This led me to a study on The effects of flicker on eye movement control. This wasn’t using a TV or monitor screen but involved reading printed matter whilst a light flickered at 50hz, 100hz or under a study light.
The results are consistent with the view that flicker has two distinct effects on reading, both of which are potentially disruptive. The first relates to an increase in the number of prematurely triggered saccades, which are, as a result, less accurate. The second is an increase in the number of saccades perturbed in flight, which land short of their intended target.
It is interesting to note that fluorescent lights flicker at 100hz or 120hz depending whether you are in Europe or the US. This suggests that reading under fluorescent lights is harder than reading under steady light. The author of the study, Alan Kennedy, did a second study examining eye movements (Eye Movement Control During the Inspection of Words Under Conditions of Pulsating Illumination), this time reading from a screen flickering at between 50hz and 125hz. This found similar evidence of an effect.
None of this gives a clear message on television flicker and the brain but it does tell us that flicker too fast to be consciously detected does have some effects.
Light therapy for ADHD, dyslexia and autism is a contentious area. How could spending twenty minutes sitting in front of a flashing light help children learn to read or control themselves? I was highly skeptical until I tried it myself (see Light Therapy Follow Up). Even having tried it I could only speculate on why it had the effect it did. Now some researchers have shown that light can effect your memory.
By exposing participants to a flashing light for one second, researchers in Oxford found that participants were better able to recall a list of trigrams (semi-random groups of three letters). Most importantly the improvements only happened when the lights were flashed at frequencies on or around 10.2 Hz. A frequency related to the brain’s alpha waves and believed to be relevant to memory functions.
Alpha waves normally span the 8 to 12 Hz range but this study was looking at older people with a mean age of 78. As the brain gets older its brain waves shift slightly and 10.2 Hz is the peak frequency for those aged 80 or above. The researchers tested flicker frequencies of 9.0 Hz, 9.5 Hz, 10.0 Hz, 10.2 Hz, 10.5 Hz, 11.0 Hz, 11.5 Hz and 500 Hz. Only those frequencies in the 9.5 – 10.5 Hz range improved participants recall.
This well designed study shows a clear link between flickering visual stimulus (sometimes called photic driving) and memory performance with strong evidence that the mechanism relates to brain wave activity. However this was a test of short exposure to flicker very quickly followed by the memory test. It provides no evidence as to what happens if the exposure to the flicker is longer or to how long the effects last. Both of these points are vital to understand what, if any, effect light therapy can have on people with learning disorders
Here we move into the field of speculation. It is clear that brain wave patterns do relate to cognitive abilities and behaviour. It also changes as we age, notably during childhood. Is it possible that children with learning problems that are related to poor short-term memory are stuck with the alpha wave patterns of a young child? If this is the case, could repeated exposure to photic driving train the brain to have strong, more consistent alpha waves? It is possible but much more research is needed.
Intelligent Testing has a good post on Dyslexia and Eye Tracking that examines a study demonstrating dyslexics, contrary to popular opinion, any eye-tracking problems a dyslexic may have are correlational to dyslexia rather than the cause.
The original study used two techniques to simulate the eye-tracking needed for reading without requiring actual reading: Psuedowords like DREV and GINZ and constant strings like QQGP and DMGL. By using these, the researchers could study eye-tracking without worrying that another possible causes of dyslexia, such as phonic problems, was effecting the dyslexics.
The researchers found that dyslexics and non-dyslexics performed equally well on the constant string reading test but dyslexics were worse on the psuedowords test. This suggests that dyslexics do not have a fundamental problem in eye-tracking and reading letters but that a problem arises when they try to process words.
An interesting conclusion that the researchers draw from the results is that:
…is that dyslexic readers’ eye movements during reading are neither dysfunctional nor erroneous – but a mirror of their reading difficulties.
Meaning that if a dyslexic has a reading age of five then their eye-tracking ability will also be that of a five year old. This matches similar research on dyslexic’s reversing letters that found dyslexics do it no more often than children of the same reading age. This raises an interesting question of what happens if you train a dyslexic’s visual abilities up to his natural age? Will their reading abilities rise to match their visual-skills age?
One criticism of this study is that the actual tests used in it are too short, each only equivalent to reading thirty to sixty words. I would like to have seen some examination of the dyslexic’s performance over a period equivalent to how the children are expected to read in class. The study was conducted on 13 year olds who are expected by the education system to read for a lot longer than a couple of minutes.
A longer reading period would of investigated the effects of reading fatigue, a common complaint of dyslexics. If the dyslexics’ constant string reading ability decreased over time faster that the non-dyslexics then it would be logical to conclude that dyslexics do have great problem with eye-tracking in real world situations. Repeating the tests multiple time would of also been interesting. Would non-dyslexics improve through practice at a faster rate than dyslexics thus suggesting that dyslexics lack an ability to learn or optimise their eye-movements?
Full Study: Perhaps correlational but not causal: No effect of dyslexic readers’
magnocellular system on their eye movements during reading [PDF]
I’m please to announce a major expansion of Myomancy.
On the Myomancy Treatment Database you will find a list of ninety different treatments available for ADHD, dyslexia and autism. These range from mainstream reading programs to fringe treatments such as NeuroCranial Restructuring. Visitors to the Treatment Database can comment on treatments they have tried so that other parents can find the right treatment for their child.
Everything is brand new so if you find anything that doesn’t work or any typos then please let me know by commenting here or emailing me.
And please tell your friends about it. If you have your own blog or are on any email lists or forums, please mention the treatment database. It can only help dyslexics and sufferers of ADHD if people know about it.
ReadPal is a piece of software that helps dyslexics and others read on-screen text. It text from MS Word, Outlook and Internet Explorer to be displayed in a variety of formats to suit the reader.
I’ve not used the software (I’m a Mac person and its Windows only) but it looks useful. Particularly if you need to do large amounts of reading on-screen for school or work but suffer from eye-strain or lose your place regularly. There is a free trial and the full software costs just over £20.
I’m currently using the Exercise Your Eyes device to improve my visual skills such as tracking. Its been about two months since I gave you my first impressions and its seems to be going well. I’ll post more soon but I am noticing a difference.
This got me more interested in vision therapy and the role it plays in children’s academic, sporting and social development. Digging around a bit I’ve found PAVE, Parents Active for Vision Education, an organisation campaigning for better recognition of the role undetected visual problem plays in children’s lives. It also promotes practical advice for preventing eye problems information on vision therapy.
See also this article in the Pioneer Press entitled Can vision therapy help kids learn?. It provides a balanced round up of the debate over the effectiveness of visual therapy.
Previously on Myomancy: Visual Problems Equals Learning Problems?