Video games can help some people read

People with dyslexia seem to get a boost
Feb 20, 2014 — 9:00 am EST

The quick changes between images and sounds in video games could help dyslexic individuals improve their ability to read, scientists suggest.

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An estimated 5 to 10 percent of people suffer some degree of dyslexia. This learning disability is a lifelong condition that can make it hard to spell and recognize words. But a new study finds that action video games may boost the ability of the brain to improve its focus. That’s good, since trouble focusing is a common in people with dyslexia.

Compared with good readers, people with dyslexia have a hard time switching from focusing on what they see to what they hear.

In the new trial, researchers in England and Spain asked volunteers to press a button as quickly as possible whenever they got a cue. Sometimes that cue would be a sound. Other times it was a dim flash. It might even be a combination of both.

People with dyslexia responded more slowly when a visual cue flashed before a sound than did people with no reading problems. These data support the idea that people with dyslexia have an impaired ability to pay attention to visual cues, the researchers conclude. Vanessa Harrar of the University of Oxford and her co-workers shared their findings February 13 in Current Biology, a research journal.

Playing action video games forces people to constantly shift their attention. As such, such games “are potentially an excellent method” for training the brains of dyslexics in skills “critical for advanced learning,” Harrar’s group says. The reason? These games train people to process sensory changes faster.

Power Words

dyslexia  A learning disability that makes it hard for an individual to spell, quickly recognized combinations of written letters as particular words, and trouble figuring out the sound that should be associated with a particular combination of letters.

Further Reading

S. Ornes. “Action gaming and quick thinking.” Science News for Students. Sept. 27, 2010.

S. Ornes. “A brain-boosting video game.” Science News for Students. Sept. 16, 2009.

L. Sanders. “Video games: When granddad wins.” Science News for Students. Sept. 10, 2013.

E. Sohn. “Listen and learn.” Science News for Students. Sept. 16, 2007.

E. Sohn. “Reading problems show cultural differences.” Science News for Students. Sept. 2, 2004.

E. Sohn. “A DNA clue to reading troubles.” Science News for Students. Sept. 2, 2003.

The Yale Center for Dyslexia & Creativity. “I have dyslexia. What does it mean?” 2014.