Learning Difficulties due to Poor Connectivity

By: Kristy S. Colling, Ph.D., and Robert Coben, Ph.D.

Learning difficulties due to poor connectivity, not specific brain regions, study shows | University of Cambridge

In 1848, a railroad accident sent a tamping iron through the head of Phineas P. Gage. It entered below his cheek bone and exited out the top of his head, lesioning large portions of the left frontal brain region. Surprisingly, Mr. Gage recovered physically enough not only to walk, but also to work in stables and as a long-haul stagecoach driver. His memory was somewhat affected, but for the most part, the most striking lasting effect was to his personality. As such, it was thought that personality must be localized in the region of Gage’s brain that was destroyed by the accident.

Gage’s case is famous in highlighting the possibility that specific abilities may be localized to specific brain regions. Indeed, this way of thinking has driven much of brain research and public understanding of how the brain works. In fact, there does seem to be some regions that are largely modality specific, such as the occipital lobe’s role in vision, specifically BA 17, 18, and 19. However, new research is shining light on the possibility that complex brain functions, such as those involved in a range of learning and developmental disabilities, may not be localized to specific regions. Instead, they may be better understood via connections that link various “hubs” across the brain into networks.

A recent study imaged (MRI) the brains of 479 children. Three hundred thirty-seven children had “learning-related cognitive problems.” The remaining 142 were a comparison sample of neurotypical children. The children all took a battery of neuropsychological tests. The researchers found that no specific brain region was predictive of a given diagnosis (e.g., ADHD, ASD) or symptom (e.g., language problems, memory problems). Instead, they found that brain organization was correlated with cognitive ability, such that those with poorly connected “hubs” had more severe symptoms, while the neurotypical group tended to have well-connected hubs.

This notion of the connectivity of brain networks is at the center of our philosophy at Integrate Brain Health. We use qEEG to assess our patients’ brain activity. This reveals whether there are certain regions that have excesses of specific brain frequencies and how well connected various brain regions are. When we identify areas of poor connectivity, we then design treatment protocols specifically tailored to help the patient train their brain to be more connected. This method works for a range of diagnoses from ADHD, ASD, reading and math difficulties, to depression and anxiety. If you would like to learn more about our process and how we can help you or someone you love, please contact us!

Integrated Neuroscience Services 479-225-3223

Integrated Neuropsychological Services 479-435-6360

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