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A new study by University of Cambridge scientists found that learning difficulties in children are caused by poor connectivity in brain regions.
Data shows that around 14 to 30% of children and teens around the world need special assistance because of learning difficulties. These difficulties include dyslexia—a reading disorder—and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)—a condition that affects a person’s impulses and self-control.
Other scientists have attempted to determine specific brain regions that may possibly cause the learning difficulties. However, the new study hypothesized that no specific brain region causes these difficulties.
To test their hypothesis, the University of Cambridge scientists scanned the brains of nearly 480 children. Over 330 of them had learning problems in areas like vocabulary, listening, and problem-solving. The scientists used machine learning to interpret data from the scans. The data was then categorized according to the children’s cognitive abilities.
The scientists found that children’s brains were organized around a network of brain areas or “hubs.” Children whose brains had well-connected hubs appeared to have higher cognitive skills. On the other hand, children with poorly connected brain hubs had more cognitive problems. Thus, the scientists concluded that the level of connectivity among the hubs is a strong indicator of children’s cognitive skills.
According to the scientists, interventions for learning disabilities should focus less on making a diagnosis because not all diagnoses can explain the reasons for a child’s learning difficulties. To support struggling children, the scientists advised creating a broad range of interventions suitable for many. Another option is to create tailor-made interventions that utilize children’s skills to address their difficulties.