Dyslexic Study U.K.

 Brainwave Training  helps dyslexia students. 

Effect of Brainwave Training on Cognitive Ability 

in Pupils with Specific Learning Difficulties

Julia Lowes2, Brian Hammond3, Lynette Blake-Hammond

Media attention was drawn to the use of Electroencephalograph (EEG) techniques to enhance performance in sporting activities, when a recent Olympic Gold winner attributed much of his success to the use of this Alphalearning Institute‘brainwave training’ programme.

We would like to point out some exciting research under way using similar techniques in order to help dyslexia sufferers.

It has been known for many years that an underlying cause of dyslexia can be associated with abnormal neurophysiological activity and over the last 25 years researchers have found differences in brainwave patterns in dyslexic pupils. Other findings suggest that lack of dominance of one side of the brain can lead to learning difficulties and experience by optometrists has suggested a positive outcome in some cases, by carefully executed techniques designed to ‘exercise’ one of the cerebral hemispheres.

In a recent scientific study of six students with specific learning difficulties the authors have designed a programme combining electroencephalograph (EEG) recording with biofeedback (self-regulation) training and light/sound stimulation.

Notable improvements were achieved in areas of cognitive weakness following just three weeks of such brainwave training. The technique makes use of sophisticated brainwave monitoring and biofeedback techniques to train students to increase the proportion of useful brainwave activity. Connected to a computer via electrodes, the student observes his own brainwave patterns. By the appropriate use of auditory and visual stimuli the student learns to modify brainwave activity in order to produce a balance conducive to learning and concentration in the individual.

Cognitive tests on students before the training showed weaknesses (less than 60% normal score) in one or more key cognitive areas. Following training, test scores in these weak areas were restored to normal and above normal.

Furthermore, reading speed was increased in all subjects.

The results are encouraging in that specific cognitive weak areas may be helped by the technique and this could lead to improvement in the overall performance of the dyslexic student, given appropriate further remediation through traditional teaching methods.

The authors have shown that changes in the cognitive profile for dyslexia sufferers, through the brainwave training, is statistically significant. The authors believe that EEG biofeedback training is a logical and natural progression using new technology to evolve existing established principles in the treatment of the neurological basis for dyslexia.

The full findings of this pilot study are available in a 50 page report available upon request..

In this pilot study six subjects diagnosed with Learning Disabilities, ranging in age from 10 to 20 years, were given a programme of brainwave biofeedback training in order to promote alpha- activity and to balance EEG patterns in left and right cerebral hemispheres. Cognitive, reading and spelling tests were carried out before and after training. Notable improvement was noted in cognitive functions, previously below 60% normal test score.

Total training time varied from 9 to 14 hours per subject over several weeks.

It is generally believed that alpha rhythms have an important relationship with learning (Green & Green, 1983). Regional cerebral blood flow techniques in developmental dyslexics who have deficits in phonological processing have revealed greater asymmetry of function compared with controls. Computerised classification of cerebral electrical activity has revealed significant differences in functions in the bilateral media frontal lobes and the left posterior quadrant of the brain in dyslexics (Duffy, 1979). These findings are consistent with Bishop’s theory that the left hemisphere in dyslexics is poorly developed and provides an inadequate substrate for development of competence in verbally based skills (Bishop, 1990).

As well as difficulties that might arise from uneven hemispheric performance, there may be a problem in moving information from one hemisphere to another during processing. Further there may be a problem in overall control by the left hemisphere (Sharma & Loveless, 1986).

Sufferers from dyslexia show discrepancies in the cognitive profile indicating specific learning difficulties. For example, decoding word patterns and symbols leads to language weaknesses. The concept of multiple intellegences described by Gardner, where he proposes that in some individuals some intelligencies are strongly developed and others underdeveloped, can be usefully applied diagnostically to specific learning difficulties. For example, dyslexics may have well developed ability in a number of cognitive functions yet a weakness in another. Sufferers from dyscalculia may show a weakness in spatial awareness.

In the Alpha Brainwave training study, described here, direct optical acoustical stimulation coupled with EEG Biofeedback is used to stimulate and harmonise the brain’s electrical activity. The aim was to teach the subjects to alter their brain patterns at will, in order to allow them to reach the optimum level of relaxation for reading and learning.

Methods

Cognitive Tests

In each of 5 cognitive test types, 40 questions were divided into two series. Subjects were given 15 minutes to complete each test 6 days before the start of the training programme. The second set of questions was given 4 weeks after the completion of the training. These cognitive tests, each of 20 questions, were as follows: Abstract reasoning, Numerical, Perceptual, Verbal, and Visual-Spatial.

EEG, Wavemeter and Biofeedback

The ideal learning wave frequency ranges are 7-9 Hz for learning and memory and 3-5 Hz for storage and retrieval of information.

Healthy, male volunteers aged between 10 and 19 were tested in this study. Brainwave 1 equipment (Alphalearning Institute, Switzerland) was used to optically acoustically stimulate the brain and obtain electroencephalograph (EEG) readings of the participants. The following procedure was used for each training session of 1 to 2 hours:

1. The EEGs were recorded by attaching 4 small wires to the head with easily removable rubber glue and disposable tabs. These recordings, also shown on screen, were then evaluated to determine the areas of the brain showing high and low levels of activity.

2. Spectacles with light-emitting diodes, and earphones were used to provide optical and acoustical stimuli with frequency combinations intended to synchronise the activity of the four main sections of the brain. The precise program used and the time taken was based on the results of the EEG in step one.

3. Biofeedback exercises were performed allowing the user to ‘hear’ and ‘see’ their own brainwave frequencies and their left-right balance. The sounds and images are more aesthetically pleasing the better the harmonisation of brainwave patterns becomes, thus encouraging the subject to learn how to create the desired brainwave states.

4. Follow-up EEGs were recorded to compare with the first recordings, in order to measure the effect of the training session. These EEGs were also used to determine output settings, for the light and sound training frequencies for subsequent sessions.

This procedure was repeated for each subject three times per week over a three weeks period. In total 9-14 hours per subject.

Reading Skills and Spelling

Reading Skills and Spelling age were determined using Burt, Watts and Schonell tests. In addition timed reading of a set paragraph was used to determine the Reading Speed.

Results

Cognitive Ability

Following brainwave training a significant improvement in at least one parameter was found in 4 of the 6 subjects. It was found that test types showing greatest improvement, following training, were those with low pre-training scores compared with the ‘normal’. Data for all subjects and cognitive tests are shown in Table 1.

Test type

Sub.1

A

Sub.1

B

Sub.2

A

Sub.2

B

Sub.3

A

Sub.3

B

Sub.4

A

Sub.4

B

Sub.5

A

Sub.5

B

Sub.6

A

Sub.6

B

Abstract Reasoning

93

84

158

130

139

121

93

100

118

111

98

98

Numerical

4

46

100

161

92

31

54

85

54

115

65

58

Perceptual

70

67

96

107

122

107

111

92

100

81

75

83

Verbal

96

81

103

81

89

81

25

125

31

119

91

91

Visual-Spatial

100

115

95

110

105

150

81

114

129

114

59

126

Total

76

80

115

117

113

105

78

103

94

105

79

94

Table 1. Test scores as percent normal before (A) and after (B) training for each subject. Subjects are shown by numbers.

The figures in bold and italic show a big change.

One subject’s (5, aged 11) achievement levels are shown in fig. 1. In this example, two of the pre-training cognitive test scores were 54% (Numerical) and 31% (Verbal) of normal. The test results after training for the same test types were 115% and 119% of normal, respectively.

If the data are grouped to show only parameters with less than 60% pre-training scores for all subjects, a significant increase in performance is revealed following training (fig. 1). One-tailed analysis of variance gave a p-value of 0.422.

By analysing each of the parameters from each of the subjects, a significant improvement following alpha training was found on each individual parameter with a <60% of normal starting point.

We conclude that the Alphalearning Brainwave Training System

with Optical and Acoustical Equipment is beneficial to dyslexics.