Speech is considered to be an ancient inborn skill. According to evolutionary theory, speech has been around for at least 50,000 years. But reading is a whole different ballgame – it is here only as long as recorded history: some 5,000-6,000 years. While there are dedicated neural pathways in the brain that handle speech, as yet, scientists have not discerned any parallel pathways devoted to the skill of reading.
Perhaps when reading has been around as long as speech, it too will have developed its own neural (nerve) pathways and brain centers. Until then, the brain must call on a variety of processes of great complexity in order to perform the act of reading. With so many different parts of the brain called into play during reading, it’s no wonder that reading is such a difficult skill to master.
Most researchers claim that reading disabilities are a consequence of a phonological core deficit. This theory holds that the individual finds it difficult to recognize sounds, spell, and map out (decode) words according to their sounds and syllables. Phonological skills involve conscious thinking and planning: the cognitive abilities of the brain.
In direct contrast to this theory, scientists at BrightStar Learning maintain that shortcomings in the early sensory-motor development of body processes are at the root of Dyslexia and reading difficulties. Most people take their shortcomings for granted and learn how to compensate and adapt; but the individual with reading difficulties cannot do so and finds reading or writing to be a continuous challenge.
BrightStar Reader aims to improve this situation by stimulating the underlying nerve-based (neural) mechanisms responsible for dealing with the organization and timing of visual motion information. The stimulation is achieved through directing the user’s passive gaze toward flickering icons and fast moving icons in specific patterns on a screen. This activity is correlated to the user’s physiological activity, increasing the brain’s receptiveness to the visual stimulation provided during the Reader session.
Most experts in the field of reading difficulties and dyslexia treat literacy issues as stemming from a top down deficit. They view the problem as one of cognition. Therefore, an educator who sees dyslexia in this light may treat a dyslexic with guided oral reading sessions, for instance. The hope is that with repetition and guidance, the sound of the spoken words will “sink in” and begin to make sense alongside their graphic counterparts: the text.
BrightStar sees the core deficit in reading difficulties as originating from a failure of the sensory motor brain skills to reach their full maturity during the early developmental stages of the individual, rather than being a perceptual-cognitive deficit, which is the more mainstream approach. BrightStar Reader technology is unique in that it targets the difficulty at its core, stimulating the involuntary processes ruled by the autonomic nervous system (ANS) and serves as a remedial exercise that improves reading difficulties from the bottom up.
By stimulating the magnocells—the large cells lining the neural (nerve) visual pathways of the brain—BrightStar Reader software enables faster processing and efficient channeling of visual sensory motor information to the cerebellum. This serves to improve those underlying, involuntary processes required for controlling the eye movements that enable skilled reading.
Two ‘Zones’ – Allocation of Visual Attention
In order to effect the retraining of early visual sensory motor activity, BrightStar Reader display screen is divided into two different “zones” of visual attention:
- A peripheral visual attention zone.
- A central visual attention zone.
BrightStar technology aims to trigger novel on/off shifts between these two visual attention zones so that two goals are achieved:
- The individual is trained to ignore peripheral visual distractions without any awareness (cognition) that he does so.
- Hand-to-eye coordination is improved through the use of a simple game-like task taking place at the center of the visual display.
The repetitive exercise of switching off between the two visual attention zones acts to improve the fluidity of eye-hand movements and the timing involved in the execution of those eye movements necessary to attain reading proficiency.
While participating in the BrightStar Reader program, the individual is engaged in a task that requires little attention and delays gratification. In this aspect, BrightStar’s Reader application differs from stress-inducing computer games in which the participant attempts to win or compete.
During a Reader session, the individual has only to direct his passive gaze at the visual display and from time to time navigate an object resembling a car along a highway. The subject performs an effortless, repetitive hand-to-eye movement that resembles the way we sweep our eyes across the page while reading. Despite receiving game instructions for this game-like-task, there is little or no-self-awareness involved: the individual has no sense of either acquitting himself well or failing miserably. There’s no stress or competition. There is no feeling of arousal such as one would experience while gaming.
In summary, BrightStar technology is one-of-a-kind in that it plays down to a minimum the cognitive while getting up close and personal with the involuntary processes controlled and regulated by the autonomic nervous system to help ameliorate reading difficulties and dyslexia in children and adults.