“Carnegie Mellon University scientists Timothy Keller and Marcel Just have uncovered the first evidence that intensive instruction to improve reading skills in young children causes the brain to physically rewire itself, creating new white matter that improves communication within the brain. As the researchers report today in the journal Neuron, [Timothy A. Keller, Marcel Adam Just. Altering Cortical Connectivity: Remediation-Induced Changes in the White Matter of Poor Readers. Neuron, 2009; 64 (5): 624-631 DOI: 10.1016/j.neuron.2009.10.018] brain imaging of children between the ages of 8 and 10 showed that the quality of white matter — the brain tissue that carries signals between areas of grey matter, where information is processed — improved substantially after the children received 100 hours of remedial training. After the training, imaging indicated that the capability of the white matter to transmit signals efficiently had increased, and testing showed the children could read better.
“Showing that it’s possible to rewire a brain’s white matter has important implications for treating reading disabilities and other developmental disorders, including autism,” said Just, the D.O. Hebb Professor of Psychology and director of Carnegie Mellon’s Center for Cognitive Brain Imaging (CCBI). Dr. Thomas R. Insel, director of the National Institute of Mental Health, agreed. “We have known that behavioral training can enhance brain function. The exciting breakthrough here is detecting changes in brain connectivity with behavioral treatment. This finding with reading deficits suggests an exciting new approach to be tested in the treatment of mental disorders, which increasingly appear to be due to problems in specific brain circuits..”