Brain Anatomy in Dyslexics Varies By Gender, Study Finds

MONDAY, May 13 (HealthDay News) -- The brains of males and females with dyslexia differ significantly, which suggests the learning disability needs to be treated separately in each gender, a new study has found.

Researchers used MRIs to scan the brains of 118 men, women, boys and girls with and without dyslexia, which impairs a person's ability to read.

Compared to people without dyslexia, males with dyslexia had less gray matter in areas of the brain that process language, while females with dyslexia had less gray matter in areas involved in sensory and motor processing.

The study, published online in the journal Brain Structure and Function, is the first to directly compare the brain anatomy of females with and without dyslexia, the Georgetown University Medical Center researchers said in a university news release.

In earlier studies, "females have been overlooked," said study senior author Guinevere Eden, director of the Center for the Study of Learning at Georgetown and past-president of the International Dyslexia Association. This may be because dyslexia is two to three times more prevalent in males, the study authors pointed out.

"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," Eden said in the news release.

Research has shown that male and female brains are different in general, noted study author Tanya Evans.

"There is sex-specific variance in brain anatomy, and females tend to use both hemispheres for language tasks, while males just [use] the left," Evans said. "It is also known that sex hormones are related to brain anatomy, and that female sex hormones such as estrogen can be protective after brain injury, suggesting another avenue that might lead to the sex-specific findings reported in this study."

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke has more about dyslexia.

SOURCE: Georgetown University, news release, May 8, 2013

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