Coordination in poor readers

Many poor readers not only have their reading problems, but they also have poor motor coordination. Below the back of the cerebral cortex lies a separate part of the brain, the cerebellum, which is the brain's motor control 'autopilot'. It receives most of its information from the magnocellular neuronal timing systems, because it is responsible for timing and coordinating the separate elements of movements, eg for speaking or reading.

Recent DRT research has shown that the development of the cerebellum may be mildly impaired in poor readers. Conversely we have found that some children with cerebellar damage may first present to a doctor with reading problems. So we have been comparing cerebellar function in good readers, poor readers and in children with severe cerebellar damage caused by tumours. We've measured how well they can keep their balance, accurately point to small targets and how quickly they can learn a sequence of finger movements.

Poor readers were indeed slightly worse than good readers at fast pointing, keeping their balance and at learning motor sequences, i.e. they do seem to have mild cerebellar impairments.  But we found that the coordination of the children with overt cerebellar damage from tumours was far worse than their reading, whereas the reading of the poor readers was far worse than their coordination. Hence even though the cerebellum may be slightly affected, this is unlikely to be the main cause of their reading problems. Therefore the expensive balance exercises that have been widely advertised will probably not help reading very much, but this kind of treatment still needs proper investigation.