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Cambridge University Science Magazine
Facoetti and colleagues from the University of Padua and the Scientific Institute Medea of Bosisio Parini in Italy have discovered that playing just 12 hours of video games improves the reading abilities of dyslexic children. After nine 80-minute sessions of playing action games per day, the improvements seen were greater than those seen after a year of spontaneous reading development.  Children were able to read more quickly without reduced accuracy and their attention also improved.

The study, published in Current Biology, was prompted by earlier work that suggested dyslexia was linked with visual attention problems rather than language. The scientists tested the effect of non-action video games and action video games on the reading ability of dyslexic children. They found that only the action video games helped.

“Action video games enhance many aspects of visual attention, mainly improving the extraction of information from the environment,” said Andrea Facoetti, Ph.D. “Dyslexic children learned to extract the relevant information of a written word more rapidly.”

Ten percent of children suffer from the neurodevelopmental disorder known as dyslexia. The underlying neurocognitive causes are unknown and debated but symptoms such as difficulty with reading are commonly recognised. The research may have implication for future treatments. “Our study paves the way for new remediation programs...that can reduce the dyslexia symptoms and even prevent dyslexia when applied to children at risk before they learn to read,” says Faocetti “but they don’t put us in a position to recommend playing video games without any control or supervision”.

It is nice to know that perhaps one day when your parents tell you to stop playing games and do your homework you can tell them that you are busy learning to read.

DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2013.01.044

Written by Martha Stokes.