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Boulton: Let’s talk about how this relates to reading, which is our focus.
Let’s talk about the difference between a genetically driven variation in this
signal to noise distinction process and the quality of the sound scape in the
environment the child is developing in.
Michael Merzenich: Right. Well, first of all, I want to say that every child
that has a reading impairment, does not have an identical genetic fault.
development of human ability represents a complex interplay between inherited
resources and environmental influences. Our
abilities absolutely spring out of the self-organization of our capacities as a
product of our environment given our inherited resources. So both of them
are absolutely crucial. You
could say we have this broad category that we call normal development, which has
a lot of slack, a lot of latitude in it. On
the other hand we have the capacity to get the most out of a brain which means
we can get more out of brains if the environment is enriched and positive and
has greater possibilities expressed.
been sort of a religious notion that we’re stuck with our inherited resources,
and to some extent, of course we are. It represents a source of limits to
everyone of us - every individual human being. But at the same time, we have a
tremendous capacity to modulate the outcomes of this given, our inherited
resources, as a function of our individual experiences.
of the complications of that is there is a very poor understanding of what good
is when we say what we need to do for a kid, for the kid to advance in the most
positive way and have the most general positive benefit from it. So
we’re very confused about what exactly it is that the brain needs to get the
most out of it, to make it the best at communicating, and ultimately, become the
best reader. But given that aside, absolutely environment makes an enormous
Lindamood: And so the thing that's important to know is that the problem is a
genetic difference that some of us don't come wired with the same kind of
connections for this specific function of phoneme awareness.
Boulton: You said, "genetic difference".
It seems to me that some of the processing infrastructure that's forming
in children from infants on, relative to how well they can do this, is forming
in response to the environment they're in and how language is being used, how
distinctly it's being used, or complexly it's being used, the speed at which
it's being used. Aren't they growing into a learning environment that's also
affecting how well the formation of their ability to do this is developing?
Lindamood: Yes, it can have some effect. But when you have within the same
family some children who can respond to that environment without any difficulty
and another child who doesn't, why, then, now that we have fMRI measures and MSI
measures, now what we used to try to analyze on the basis of performance of the
student, or behavior, now we can actually use brain function measures that will
show an area of the brain that is active when people are making these good
judgments about the identity, number and order of sounds and words, and that
area of the brain is not active when they're unable to do that.
Boulton: Right. But that's still at a snapshot
in time. I mean, unless we did that across the number of children from the time
they were born until the time they were six or seven so we could see the effect
of their environment on developing that — I mean, I hear what you're saying
about the different kids from the same family ending up with different
capacities here, and that that certainly reveals a genetic propensity that's at
work, but that at some degree, it's both.
Boulton: I mean I don't know how we could say otherwise, right? We couldn't
say that it was just genetic.
Lindamood: No, no.
Lindamood: No, because if it were just genetics, then you couldn't do anything
Lindamood: But it is — it's genetically based. And then depending on what's
done, the situation can be changed or not changed.
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Dr. Grover (Russ) WhitehurstDirector,Institute of Education Sciences, Assistant
Secretary of Education, U.S. Department of Education Dr. Jack
ShonkoffChair, The National Scientific Council on the
Developing Child; Co-Editor: From
Neurons to Neighborhoods
Edward Kame'enuiCommissioner for Special Education Research, U.S. Department of
Education; Director, IDEA, University of Oregon Dr. G. Reid LyonPast
Director,National Institute of Child
Health and Human Development (NICHD) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH)
Dr. Keith Stanovich
Canadian Chair of Cognitive Science, University of Toronto Dr. Mel
LevineCo-Chair and Co-Founder,All
Kinds of Minds; Author:A
Mind at a Time, The Myth of Laziness &
Ready or Not Here Life Comes Dr. Alex
District Psychologist, Past President, Oregon
School Psychologists Association
J. HeckmanNobel Laureate, Economic Sciences 2000; Lead Author: The Productivity Argument for Investing in Young Children
Dr. Timothy Shanahan President
(2006) International Reading Association, Chair National Early Literacy Panel,
Member National Reading Panel Nancy
Hennessy President, 2003-2005, International Dyslexia Association Dr.
Marilyn Jager Adams Senior Scientist, Soliloquy
Learning, Author: Beginning to Read: Thinking and Learning About Print Dr.
Michael MerzenichChair of Otolaryngology, Integrative Neurosciences, UCSF; Member National
Academy of Sciences Dr. Maryanne
WolfDirector, Center for Reading & Language Research; Professor of
University Dr. Todd Risley Emeritus
Professor of Psychology, University of Alaska, Co-author: Meaningful Differences
Sally ShaywitzNeuroscientist, Department of Pediatrics, Yale
University, Author: Overcoming Dyslexia
Director, Professional Development and
Research Initiatives, Sopris West Educational Services Dr. Zvia BreznitzProfessor, Neuropsychology of Reading & Dyslexia, University of Haifa,
LavoieLearning Disabilities Specialist, Creator: How Difficult Can This Be?: The F.A.T. City
Last One Picked, First One Picked On Dr.Charles
Professor, Psychology & Linguistics; Senior Scientist and Associate Director,
R&D Center, U. of Pittsburgh, PA
Senior V.P. & Dir. of Research,
Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis; Co- Author:
Economics of Early Childhood Development
Dr. Richard VenezkyProfessor, Educational Studies, Computer and
Information Sciences, and Linguistics, University of Delaware
Dr. Keith RaynerDistinguished Professor, University of Massachusetts, Author: Eye
Movements in Reading and Information Processing Dr.
Paula TallalProfessor of Neuroscience,
Co-Director of the Center for Molecular and Behavioral Neuroscience, Rutgers
SearleMills Professor of the Philosophy
of Mind and Language, University of California-Berkeley, Author:
Mind, A Brief Introduction
ResearchCenter, Penn State Dept. of Human Development
& Family Studies;
CASEL Leadership Team Dr.
Terrence Deacon Professor of Biological
Anthropology and Linguistics at University of California- Berkeley Chris
Doherty Ex-Program Director, National Reading First
Program, U.S. Department of Education Dr. Erik Hanushek Senior Fellow,
Hoover Institution, Stanford University
Dr. Marketa Caravolas
Director, Bangor Dyslexia Unit, Bangor University, Author: International
Report on Literacy Research Dr. Christof
KochProfessor of Computation and
Neural Systems, Caltech - Author:The Quest for Consciousness: A Neurobiological Approach
Professor of Languages and Cultures of Ancient
Mesopotamia, Holland; Author: Unfolding
Language Robert Wedgeworth President, ProLiteracy, World's Largest Literacy
Organization Dr. Peter Leone Director,
National Center on Education, Disability and Juvenile Justice Dr. Thomas CableProfessor of English, University of Texas at Austin, Co-author: A History of the
Ecologist and Philosopher; Author: The
Spell of the Sensuous Pat Lindamood and Nanci Bell
Principal Scientists, Founders, Lindamood-Bell Learning Processes Dr. Anne Cunningham
Director, Joint Doctoral Program in Special Education, Graduate School of
Education at University of California-Berkeley Dr. Donald L.
NathansonClinical Professor of Psychiatry and Human Behavior at
Jefferson Medical College, Director of the Silvan S. Tomkins Institute Dr.Johanna
DruckerChair of Media Studies, University of Virginia, Author:
The Alphabetic Labyrinth
John H. Fisher Medievalist,
Leading authority on the development of the written English language, Author:
The Emergence of Standard English Dr. Malcolm RichardsonChair, Dept. of English,
Louisiana State University; Research: The Textual Awakening of the
English Middle Classes James
Executive Director, National Center
for Learning Disabilities
Physician; Best-Selling Author:
The Alphabet vs. The Goddess Robert SweetCo-Founder,
National Right to Read Foundation
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