New research suggests brain scans could help identify dyslexia in young children and thereby enable primary school teachers to intervene earlier to assist their educational development.
Previous studies have revealed the arcuate fasciculus region of the brain tends to be smaller and less organised in adults with dyslexia than those who read normally.
However, they were unable to determine whether this difference was responsible for reading difficulties, or resulted from a lack of reading experience.
Now though, researchers from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Boston Children's Hospital in the US may have resolved this conundrum, in a study that involved conducting brain scans on 40 different pre-school children.
Their findings, published in the Journal of Neuroscience, revealed a correlation between the size and organisation of a child's fasciculus and how they performed in phonological tests.
These tests assess children's ability to segment sounds, identify them in isolation, and rearrange them to make new words, with strong phonological skills having been linked to ease of learning to read.
Researchers could not though establish a connection between fasciculus size and organisation and a child's ability to name a series of familiar objects as quickly as possible, or their aptitude for naming letters, both of which can also predict reading ability.
MIT's Professor John Gabrieli remarked: "Can we, through a combination of behavioural and brain measures, get a lot more accurate at seeing who will become a dyslexic child, with the hope that that would motivate aggressive interventions that would help these children right from the start, instead of waiting for them to fail?"
A spokeswoman for the British Dyslexia Association told BBC News it was "exciting" to think brain imaging could be part of a range of indicators used to identify the risk of dyslexic difficulties, but warned further research is needed to determine whether this is the case.
The potential value of such tests is underlined by a survey conducted last year by charity Dyslexia Action, which found 82 per cent of parents polled believed more specialists were needed to help identify dyslexic children, with some feeling their child's learning difficulties were not picked up early enough.
Posted by Tim Colman