Children with learning disabilities have a much harder time in school than any child should have. These difficulties do not indicate their intelligence level,but instead the way their brain works. Still, having learning difficulties often impactsa child’s self-esteem and may decrease their desire to learn.
The most crucial first step in overcoming learning disabilities is receiving a proper diagnosis. This helps children understand why they struggle with certain areas of learning and provides a starting point for treatment.
How to Test for Learning Disabilities
Currently, the standard for diagnosing learning disabilities is through various tests. For those suspected of having a reading disability, these tests will assess reading fluency, decoding, and comprehension skills.
However, the process of addressing learning disabilities, reading disabilities in particular, has been advanced through brain imaging studies.
Brain Imaging Studies for Reading Disabilities
Brain imaging studies use magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans to obtain a computerized map of the brain. By comparing scans of those who have reading disabilities to those who don’t, scientists are able to find differences between the scans and see how the structure of the brain differs in those with reading disabilities.
Visualizing the Brain’s Function
Functional MRIs (fMRIs) are especially useful in diagnosing reading disabilities and increasing our understanding concerning learning disabilities because this type of scan allows scientists to see how the brain functions, not just its structure.
It works by measuring the amount of oxygen-rich blood in certain areas, with more oxygen-rich blood producing a stronger signal on the image, which looks brighter and bolder on the scan.
Not all blood in the body contains the same amount of oxygen, with some blood being oxygen-rich and other blood oxygen-poor. If a particular part of the brain is active, the brain cells produce a change in blood flow, sending an increase in the oxygen-rich blood to the area of the brain that is being used. It is this physiology that is captured on an fMRI scan.
With these scans, neurologists can visually see how the brain of those with reading disabilities differs from those without reading disabilities. This has provided additional information on what happens in the minds of children with reading disabilities, explaining why they have these struggles.For example, the part of the brain responsible for language processing works differently in children with reading disabilities.
Brain Imaging Studies for Better Diagnosis
These markers of reading disabilities allow scientists to use an fMRI scan to see if a child has a reading disability. In some cases, these scans can determine a child’s likelihood to have a reading disability before they reach a point where their reading disability severely impacts their learning.
This innovation allows neurologists to help those with reading disabilities early, teaching them the skills they need to succeed in school and solving reading problems they may struggle with.
The information gleaned through brain imaging studies concerning learning disabilities is only continuing to grow, with researchers learning more about how the brain functionality of those with learning disabilities is different every day. This knowledge is vital for improving diagnosis because it allows neurologists to understand what skills are affected and what to analyze. It also leads to better treatment because neurologists can see what skills require extra attention.
Sources https://www.understood.org/articles/en/inside-the-brain-what-mris-are-teaching-us  https://www.usnews.com/education/k12/articles/what-parents-need-to-know-about-learning-disability-tests  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Functional_magnetic_resonance_imaging