How Dyslexia Affects The Brain

By Morgan Kimball

How does the brain work differently in people with dyslexia compared to people without dyslexia? The brain is a very complex organ with many functions. Reading is also a complex process. Reading requires visual processing of symbols and the sound that relates to that symbol and fluently blending those sounds together. Also, to be able to associate meaning or multiple meanings with each word. We have to think of what to say, choose the correct words to relay the message, break those words down into sounds, and use the correct letters to spell each sound. The English language is made up of many other languages, such as German, Norse, French, Latin, and Greek. When a child struggles with processing words and reading, it does not mean their brains are broken. They just process words and sounds a little differently.

Years of research show that dyslexia is not related to an individual’s intelligence or motivation but rather a language-based difficulty with the brain. There are two sides to the brain; the right hemisphere and the left hemisphere. Understanding written language occurs in the left hemisphere in many different areas; such as the frontal, parietal, occipital, and temporal lobes. These areas of the brain are slightly different in individuals with dyslexia.

Readers without dyslexia have more activity in the areas of the brain associated with reading. These individuals engage the middle area of the brain or the temporal lobe. In a non-dyslexia brain, these areas work together to process the written language. In a dyslexic brain, there is more activity in the frontal lobe and less in the parietal and occipital areas. The parietal lobe helps in word recognition and decoding. The occipital lobe helps with the ability to access whole words and read skillfully, fluently, and automatically. The reduced activity in these areas of the brain may explain some of the struggles of dyslexic individuals with reading and writing.

In another study, dyslexic brains have less white and grey matter. White matter is deep in the brain and is necessary for communication between nerves around various parts of the brain. Gray matter is largely responsible for processing information and is mostly composed of nerve cells. The less gray matter in this particular area may affect how dyslexic individuals process the different sounds of language (phonemic awareness). The decrease in white matter may impact reading and processing.

Remember, the brain is a very complex organ. The English language is made up of many other languages, which can make the reading process hard. No matter how much a child struggles with dyslexia, the right interventions can help an individual learn how to read and write.