Anatomical Brain Differences Between Male and Female Dyslexics? More Fuel for the Gender Debate

New research shows there is an anatomical difference between the brains of males and females diagnosed with dyslexia.

Gender differences in the brain not related to dyslexia have been found before.  Males tend to use only the left hemisphere of the brain to perform language tasks, while females use both hemispheres.  Dr. Guinevere Eden conducted brain-imaging studies to focus on the anatomical differences related specifically to dyslexia.  These images show that, compared to those without a dyslexia diagnosis, males diagnosed with dyslexia have less gray matter in the areas of the brain related to language processing, and females with dyslexia have less gray matter in areas of the brain related to sensory and motor processing.

In the 1990’s, there was significant debate about whether or not dyslexia afflicts more boys than girls.  It was observed by many in the educational field that more boys than girls received a reading disability diagnosis at school.  Researchers of dyslexia, however, maintained that boys and girls in equal measure developed dyslexia.  The popular thinking at the time was that boys acted out more at school, getting them noticed and diagnosed, whereas girls tended to be more compliant and compensated for their learning struggles more effectively.

Dr. Eden’s research challenges this theory.  J. Richard Gentry, Ph.D., wrote an article published in the April 2014 edition of Psychology Today magazine that focuses on the gender divide in dyslexia and Dr. Eden’s study.  “Brains of female dyslexics differ from female non-dyslexics in ways that do not reflect the differences observed in males with and without dyslexia.”

An article cited in a HealthDay online newsletter dated May 13, 2013, also discussed Dr. Eden’s latest research as reported in a Georgetown University news release.  Brain-imaging studies up to now have not included scrutiny of female brains with and without dyslexia.  “Females have been overlooked,” states Dr. Eden.  “It has been assumed that results of studies conducted in men are generalizable to both sexes.   But our research suggests that researchers need to tackle dyslexia in each sex separately to address questions about its origin and, potentially, treatment.”

The staff at ALP keeps an eye on scientific research about dyslexia as it emerges.  Our goal is to learn more about the condition itself and continue to explore and implement the methodologies available to treat it so that our students receive the best possible treatment at our clinic.  To learn more about what we do, click here.

For more information about Dr. Eden’s research at the Georgetown Center for the Study of Learning, click here.

Melinda Buie, Director of Clinical Services

Rachel Phelps, Clinician

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