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Reading is more difficult than speaking because an arbitrary set of visual symbols must be rapidly identified, ordered and translated into the sounds they represent. Many poor readers have particular problems with the rapid visual processing required for these tasks because they have a mild impairment of the visual magnocellular system. This deficit has been demonstrated using neuropathological, evoked potential, functional magnetic resonance imaging and psychophysical techniques. The sensitivity of the M-system in both good and bad readers correlates with their orthographic abilities, suggesting that the M-system plays an important part in their development. This role is probably to mediate steady direction of visual attention and eye fixations on words. Thus many children with reading difficulties have unsteady eye control and this causes the letters they are trying to read to appear to move around, so that they cannot tell what order they are meant to be in. Therefore, boosting M-performance using yellow filters, or training eye fixation, can improve reading performance very significantly. Several genetic linkage studies have associated reading difficulties with the MHC control region on the short arm of chromosome 6. This system has recently been shown to help regulate the differentiation of M-cells. This association could also explain the high incidence of autoimmune conditions in poor readers. Other chromosomal sites are associated with the metabolism of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) as found in fish oils, and this could explain why PUFA supplements can improve reading.


Journal article



Publication Date





1785 - 1793


Attention, Environment, Eye Movements, Genetic Linkage, Humans, Motion, Parietal Lobe, Psychophysics, Reading, Visual Cortex, Visual Pathways, Visual Perception