Elizabeth Huber, Patrick M. Donnelly, Ariel Rokem & Jason D. Yeatman. Rapid and widespread white matter plasticity during an intensive reading intervention, Nature Communications volume 9:2260 (2018).
Using MRI measurements of the brain’s neural connections, or “white matter,” researchers have shown that, in struggling readers, the neural circuitry strengthened — and their reading performance improved — after just eight weeks of a specialized tutoring program. The study is the first to measure white matter during an intensive educational intervention and link children’s learning with their brains’ flexibility. After eight weeks of intensive instruction among study participants who struggled with reading or had been diagnosed with dyslexia, two of those three areas showed evidence of structural changes — a greater density of white matter and more organized “wiring.” These findings demonstrate that targeted, intensive reading programs not only lead to substantial improvements in reading skills, but also change the underlying wiring of the brain’s reading circuitry.