Lisa Gabel, Lafayette College – Diagnosing Dyslexia

Early intervention is key to closing the reading achievement gap.

Lisa Gabel, associate professor of psychology and neuroscience at Lafayette College, discusses a new approach to catch dyslexia earlier and help children learn.

Lisa Gabel is an associate professor of psychology and neuroscience and chair of the neuroscience program at Lafayette College. Her work focuses on behavioral and neurophysiological consequences of neurodevelopmental disorders.  Using animal models of developmental dyslexia, fragile X mental retardation and cortical dysplasia, she is answering questions on the genetic basis of developmental dyslexia, the consequences of environmental enrichment on learning and memory and synaptic protein expression, as well as mechanisms underlying seizure disorder.

She holds a Ph.D. from the University of Connecticut.

Diagnosing Dyslexia

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Dyslexia also referred to as reading disorder is a global issue that affects 5 to 17% of the world’s population. 

Reading impairment may stem from any number of factors, such understanding speech sounds, and learning and memory abilities.   

The impact of this learning difficulty can influence how a child feels about themselves, lowering self-esteem.   This can lead to additional social and emotional issues, which may cause the child to give up; worsening their impairment.   

Early intervention is essential to close the reading achievement gap.  Therefore accurate and efficient early detection efforts are critical.   Despite research suggesting that poor readers can be identified by the first grade, the rate of false negatives in testing can be as high as 50 percent.   As a result, many children who need early intervention do not receive it.

Students in my laboratory are working on a research program to examine the link between reading ability, maze solving performance, and genetics in order to better understand the way children with reading impairment learn AND how that connects to genetic risk factors for dyslexia. 

We developed a virtual maze task – which children complete using a computer. For this task we can measure the time it takes to complete each maze, the number of errors committed, as well as the paths taken.  These measurements, along with eye tracking analysis enable us to examine learning and memory skills in children.  In our studies, this maze task seems to be a better tool for early identification of reading impairment than current reading measures.   

Recently we uncovered a connection between this virtual maze task and reading performance across multiple languages. This suggests that the maze task may be used internationally – and have a global impact for the early detection of dyslexia.

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  1. Muhammad Ihza Mahendra

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