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Module 1: Dyslexia and Language Disorders

Doc's Brain Blocks© grew out of a quest to fix the type of dyslexia that remains a lifelong struggle. What follows is a different approach derived from a combination of two doctorates and my nearly forty years of experience in multiple fields. It also helps that I know what it is like to struggle with neurological challenges.

Doc's Brain Blocks© focuses on the neural pathways connecting the language centers. Two key basic types of deficits are neural disconnection and neural dysregulation. Doc's Brain Blocks© started with close clinical observations using neuropsychological tests like the Halstead-Reitan. A great deal of research using high-tech brain imaging methods clarifies how the brain works.

Most people want quick fixes, like medication or a reading intervention course. When available, quick fixes and learning accommodations are helpful. Brain retraining focused on neural pathway disorders is not a quick fix. Doc's Brain Blocks© focuses on repairing the underlying neural pathway deficits that cripple and limit people for a lifetime. This is the first in a series of interventions. There is a good deal of research and validation studies to come. This intervention is offered to help stop the suffering of individuals with dyslexia and related language disorders.

Primary Language Centers

There are three major language areas in the left lobe of the brain. This includes Broca's area, Wernicke's area, and the left inferior parietal lobule (small lobe). The left inferior parietal lobule has two parts: angular gyrus and supramarginal gyrus.

Broca's area is responsible for language production. It lies in the left frontal lobe. Broca's area helps us –

  • Process the sounds making up words (phonemes)
  • Produce verbal output
  • Activate the motor centers of the tongue and mouth
  • Remember verbal material

Wernicke's area processes auditory words and language inputs. It is in the left temporal lobe. Wernicke's area helps us –

  • Represent words
  • Interpret words
  • Produce speech

The inferior parietal lobule is located at the junction of the temporal, occipital, and parietal lobes. It is one of the last structures to mature in children. This is one reason why many children cannot begin to read and write until age five or six.

The inferior parietal lobule helps us -

  • Process different kinds of stimuli (auditory, visual, sensorimotor, etc.) simultaneously
  • Add on the multiple properties of spoken and written words, like sound, appearance, and functioning
  • Classify and label things
  • Form concepts and think abstractly

The inferior parietal lobule has two distinct parts: the supramarginal gyrus and the Angular Gyrus.

The supramarginal gyrus is involved in processing the sounds and oral features of words. It allows us to –

  • Hear and interpret the sounds making up words
  • Pronounce words correctly
  • Activate the motor and premotor areas for speech

The left angular gyrus is located at the junction of the temporal, occipital, and parietal lobes. It helps us –

  • Transfer and associate visual, auditory, and tactile information
  • Combine visual and auditory information needed for reading and writing
  • Connect objects and words for objects, which is essential for learning language
  • Become more fluent in language
  • Hold words in working memory long enough to process the words
  • Spell words
  • Remember the meaning of words
  • Put words into categories and combine words to form ideas and concepts
  • Store the rules for translation from written to spoken language
  • Deal with the structure of language

The right angular gyrus helps us to –

  • Go beyond the literal meanings of words
  • Add practical implications to words (pragmatics)
  • Understand implied meanings used in humor, metaphor, singing, etc.
  • Integrate the emotional and tonal components of language through pathways to the emotional gatekeeper (amygdala) and the thinking brain's emotional processing center (posterior cingulate)

Language Information Routes

The route information travels varies with the language task. When a person hears another person speak a word, it is perceived first in the primary auditory cortex. It is then passed on to Wernicke's area, where it is recognized as an auditory word. The message is sent to Broca's area where words and phrases are arranged. Broca's area makes a plan for speaking the word. That plan for speaking the word is carried out by the specialized neurons in the motor cortex. The mouth and larynx are signaled to speak the word.

In contrast, when someone reads a word, it reaches the brain via the eyes rather than the ears. Consequently, it is perceived first, as a graphic pattern, by the primary visual cortex, which passes it onto the angular gyrus. There, at the junction of the temporal, occipital, and parietal lobes, the word is held in memory for a short time.

The spelling of the word is figured out. It is connected with an object. The word is connected to various characteristics of an object and categories of objects. Conceptual thinking occurs related to the word. From the angular gyrus, the information is then passed on to the adjacent region, Wernicke's area, where it is recognized as a word associated with its corresponding auditory form. From there the message travels to Broca's area. Words and phrases are arranged. Broca's area then adds a plan for speaking the word. This rich complex information is then sent to the nearby motor cortex. Specialized neurons in the motor cortex send the signals to the mouth and larynx. The spoken word is produced.

Neural Pathways Connecting the Language Centers

There are neural pathways (fasciculus) which provide the communication between the language centers. These long high speed communication lines are essential for the language centers to operate properly. The term “fasciculus” means “little bundles” of nerve fibers.

Pathways Connecting Broca's and Wernicke's Areas:

Arcuate fasciculus: The arcuate fasciculus provides a direct pathway between Broca's and Wernicke's areas. It develops early and is the primary pathway used until age 5 or 6. Disruptions in communication via the arcuate fasciculus impairs language production and processing of auditory and language inputs.

Inferior parietal lobule: The inferior parietal lobule has many multisensory connections that link Wernicke's and Broca's areas. This pathway develops later at about age 5 or 6.

Communication via this pathway is essential for fluent reading. This less direct neural pathway is essential for converting visual and auditory language inputs into thoughts and concepts.

Up until the second or third grade reading, speaking or writing a series of words is sufficient. Then the volume of words sharply increases. The older student with dyslexia must read and reread paragraphs to hold on to enough words to eventually form a thought or concept.

Other Neural Pathways:

The language communication process involves many more circuits than the arcuate fasciculus and inferior parietal lobule. It is somewhat easier to describe these neural pathways by starting at the occipital lobe at the back (posterior) of the brain.

Inferior Longitudinal Fasciculus: As noted above, there is a primary neural pathway whereby the angular gyrus connects words with emotions. That neural pathway is the left inferior longitudinal fasciculus. In brain anatomy terms that neural pathway runs from the occipitotemporal regions to the temporal pole. The temporal pole is a communication junction because it is located near the limbic system lower in the brain.

Unicate Fascicule: The unicate fascicula connects the temporal pole to the frontal basal areas. The frontal basal areas deal with attention and concentration, short-term and working memory, executive functions, and emotional and mood stability.

Superior Longitudinal Fasciculus: This four-part bundle connects the front and the back of the brain. One part deals with regulating motor behavior. A second part focuses on spatial perception and attention. A third part focuses on the body-sensing (somatosensory) information needed for speaking and other motor activities and on working memory. A fourth part transmits auditory information.

Fixing Dyslexia and Other Language Disorders

Some individuals do not learn to read despite the many interventions available. During the development of Doc's Brain Blocks©, we saw major improvement in reading, as well as in written and oral language. The improvement that individuals had was based only on the brain retraining exercises. We did not include the usual interventions for reading, written language or oral language. One young man not only began to read well, but without help he wrote an essay for college admission. No one thought he knew how to write well. He had even absorbed the rules of phonics and sentence structure. This was observed in the phonetically correct spelling of some words. Similar results have occurred with others. A bright young woman reported great improvement in her ability to communicate orally, even in larger groups. Growing evidence indicates that reading, oral language, and written language are parts of a larger language system.

Neural Disconnection Dyslexia and Language Disorders: Deficits in the neural pathways themselves greatly impair reading and language functioning. Until the neural circuits are repaired, the language centers do not operate properly. In essence the language centers are disconnected. Disconnection between any of the primary language centers affects reading, oral language, and written language. Disconnection deficits take longer to repair than neural dysregulation deficits.

Types of neural disconnections include –

  • Inadequate development of the neural pathways
  • Lack of left hemisphere dominance in neural pathways and language centers
  • Damage to the neural pathways
  • Disrupted functioning in the neural pathways

Neural Dysregulation Dyslexia and Language Disorders: Disturbances in neural activity can impair communication between the primary language centers. This can occur when neural pathways are connected.

Types of neural dysregulation include –

  • Overly slow speed of neural signals (phase lag)
  • Inadequate power of neural signals
  • Power imbalances in the neural networks (amplitude asymmetry)
  • Poor rhythmic activity within the neural networks (low or high coherence)
  • Disruptive bursts of neural activity
  • Inability to maintain a thought long enough to think and learn