MAR 03, 2020 6:38 AM PST

How Brain is Wired Caused Learning Difficulties, Not Specific Brain Regions

WRITTEN BY: Annie Lennon

For quite some time, science has attributed learning difficulties such as dyslexia and language processing disorder to malfunctions in specific areas of the brain. Now however, new research from the University of Cambridge, UK, has found that these difficulties may instead be the result of how brains are wired. 

For their study, the team of researchers collected data from 500 children with learning difficulties from the MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit in Cambridge. They then fed the data into an artificial neural network to distinguish between each child’s cognitive profile. Next, using a process called “cross-validation”, the researchers made associations between various cognitive profiles and different learning abilities. 

In the end, the researchers found that there are no specific areas in the brain that can be held responsible for a particular disorder or difficulty. In particular, they found that regional brain data from specific areas did not strongly correlate with cognitive abilities, and that using this data alone, it was not possible to diagnose ASD or ADHD. In fact, they found that the same cognitive profile could be associated with multiple different brain profiles. 

Moreover, they found that children’s brains were organized around ‘hubs’, almost like in a transport network. While children with well-connected ‘hubs' tended to land on extremes of cognitive difficulties- either having very specific varieties or none at all, those with poorly connected hubs had widespread, and oftentime, severe cognitive issues. 

Roma Siugzdaite, one of the study’s authors said, “Maybe the important thing about kids' brains isn't related to specific regions or areas... but instead to how those areas are wired together. Think about other complex systems, like subway... When they shut unexpectedly it can have a catastrophic effect on the whole network. This is true for all sorts of networks, even social networks. It is true of the brain also; hubs play a key role in making sure that information can pass between different brain regions.”

All in all, the research offers new insights in how children’s cognitive abilities link to their brain structures. In particular, the findings highlight that a child’s diagnosis may not be able to predict their cognitive problems nor their underlying brain functionality. 


Sources: University of Cambridge and Current Biology

About the Author
  • Annie graduated from University College London and began traveling the world. She is currently a writer with keen interests in genetics, psychology and neuroscience; her current focus on the interplay between these fields to understand how to create meaningful interactions and environments.
You May Also Like
DEC 22, 2019
Drug Discovery & Development
DEC 22, 2019
Effective Therapeutic Approved for Migraines
The U.S Food and Drug Administration has now approved a new medication for migraines. The drug is called ‘ubrogepant (Ubrelvy)’ and comes in th...
FEB 07, 2020
Neuroscience
FEB 07, 2020
Eating Fruits and Vegetables May Lower Alzheimer's Risk
New research has found that flavonols, a large class of compounds present in many fruits and vegetables, may be linked to a lower risk of developing Alzhei...
FEB 10, 2020
Cell & Molecular Biology
FEB 10, 2020
Lighting a Path to an Alzheimer's Disease Treatment
Alzheimer's impacts millions of people around the world; globally, it is thought to cost $605 billion a year, and there is still no way to treat it....
FEB 12, 2020
Cannabis Sciences
FEB 12, 2020
Smoking Marijuana Leads to False Memory Formation
Smoking marijuana is known to make people forgetful. Now however, research has shown that smoking the substance may also make people remember things that n...
FEB 03, 2020
Neuroscience
FEB 03, 2020
Genetic Characterization of Bipolar Disorders, Major Depressive Disorder
Mood disorders, like Bipolar, Major Depressive Disorder, and Schizophrenia, among others, are difficult to define clinically.  Unlike disorders that a...
MAR 01, 2020
Genetics & Genomics
MAR 01, 2020
Treating Huntington's Disease With a Gene Therapy That Targets Brain Cells
A new therapeutic approach for Huntington's disease may aid patients with other neurodegenerative disorders....
Loading Comments...