Training brains for improvement in reading – and work performance, too

By Michael McCauley Researchers recently set out to answer a question that dogs educators and parents: Why are some kids better readers than others? They used functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging  (fMRI) to study the brain activity of both high and low performing readers.  Brain activity turned out to be significantly different in the two groups.   This raised another question: Could the brains of the low performing readers be somehow “trained” to mimic the same brain activity as the high performers? The researchers set about developing a software program, called “Fast ForWord,” to specifically address this question.  It turns out that language acquisition has to do with how the brain “hears” and interprets sounds. The software was designed to deliver acoustically modified speech that helped students learn. Over time, new synapses were formed in the brains of the learners, allowing improved language processing. The results were staggering. Initial students that used the software in one-hour daily labs showed significant improvement; there was an  average reading level gain of eight months in 29 days. This research has implications for early learning, but it also has implications for businesses. It demonstrates in a very tangible and measurable way that the brain is trainable. The tired adage that “old dogs can’t learn new tricks” doesn’t apply any more. Given the right stimulus, we can now “train” the brains of lower performers to mimic the activity of top performers, even at an early age. A similar approach can be used to help lower performers in business think and act like the highest performers.]]>

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