Eden Tells Senate Hearing that Brain Research Key to Understanding Dyslexia

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May 11, 2016 – Georgetown’s Guinevere Eden, PhD (new window), an internationally renowned expert in dyslexia research, testified Tuesday before a full committee hearing of the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (new window) where she called for more dialogue between neuroscientists in the lab and educators in the classroom.

Eden, director of the Center for the Study of Learning (new window) at Georgetown University Medical Center, told committee members that research is providing a wealth of information.

Watch the hearing here (new window).

Brain Imaging Research

Eden explained the rapid and significant contributions brain imaging has made to understanding of dyslexia, a research strategy she first initiated 20 years ago with functional MRI.

“This allows us to non-invasively characterize the developmental trajectory of reading acquisition in children, and also to understand the brain bases for reading in different writing systems and in different languages.”

Eden said fMRI also is used to study dyslexia and the brian-bases of intensive reading interventions.

“We have learned that children and even adults with dyslexia not only make gains in reading, but also show measurable brain plasticity,” she said.

Research Translation Needed

Despite gains in research, Eden explained that the findings aren’t being translated as effectively as they should be.

Resources exist, but as Eden explained, “… much more needs to be done by researchers and educators to jointly harness the knowledge of teaching and learning to the benefit of children with dyslexia.”

In this video, Eden explains her research in math and reading disabilities.

Dyslexia in Families

Eden was joined at the witness table by other dyslexia researchers, a parent of a child with dyslexia, lawyer David Boies and actor and former inmate Ameer Baraka to help raise the awareness and explore the benefits of identifying dyslexia early on in children.

Senator William Cassidy (R-La.), who co-chaired the hearing, advocated for more research.

“Science should begin driving policy,” said Cassidy, who has a child with dyslexia. “We have the dots; now let’s connect them.”

One area of research not fully in action involved inherited dyslexia.

“Despite the fact that dyslexia often runs in families and there is research to explain genetic involvement, this knowledge is greatly underutilized when it comes to early identification,” Eden told the committee.

There Should be no Stigma

Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), also co-chair of the hearing, pointed out that people with learning disabilities are pitted against each other for resources. 

“We need a multifaceted approached,” Mikulski declared.

Eden underscored the importance of research, which has revealed that people with dyslexia aren’t different — on their brains function differently.

“Their struggles with reading are not because they are stupid or because they are not trying hard enough,” and Eden said.

“There should not be a stigma.” 

In September 2014, Eden also testified on “The Science of Dyslexia” (new window) in front of the House Committee on Sciences, Space and Technology.

Read Eden’s full written testimony here (new window).

Karen Teber
GUMC Communications