Washington: In a finding that may help improve treatment and diagnosis of common reading disorders like dyslexia, a study suggests that phonics should not be overlooked in favour of a whole-language technique that focuses on visually memorising word patterns.
Phonics is a method of learning to read using knowledge of word sounds.
"Phonological information is critical for helping identify words as they are being read," says Chris McNorgan, assistant professor of psychology at University at Buffalo.
McNorgan's study used MRI scans to observe how parts of the brain responded to audio and visual word cues.
A better reader is someone whose visual processing is more sensitive to audio information.
The MRI scanner determined which parts of the brain were most active during each condition by displaying a three dimensional representation of the brain.
This three dimensional representation of brain is made up of what looks like a series of cubes, called voxels.
"Each cube has a measurement of activation strength that allows us to understand of what's happening in each area under all three of the conditions," McNorgan noted.
Barring injury, all parts of the brain are working at all times, contrary to the myth that it functions at only a fraction of its capacity.
But different parts of the brain are specialised for different types of activities that trigger some regions to work harder than others.
"The multi-sensory neurons are getting the job done sooner, so they do not need to fire for as long. Better readers seem to have more of these neurons taking advantage of auditory information to help the visual word recognition system along," McNorgan concluded.
The results were published in Brain & Language.