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The “did I shut the front door?” hypothesis

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Have you ever left your house, walked halfway to where you need to be, and then stopped to think “did I shut the front door?” This can leave you in turmoil; dissonance occurs. Do you return home and expend all that extra energy only to find your door is in fact shut? Or do you continue on your journey, in blind faith that you did the right thing-you shut the door- as you do every… single… time you leave your house. The reason for this phenomenon is the automaticity that occurs in the cerebellum within certain skills (such as closing a door). Therefore, when something is done enough times it is no longer attended to.

The cerebellum has been linked to non-motor learning. Previous research has focused on motor function in this area, but this is not the only component to the cerebellum. Therefore, the cerebellum needs to be looked at in more detail in terms of other functions.

The three cognitive disorders I have covered in past blogs (Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) & Dyslexia) all have been shown to have cerebellar abnormalities that could potentially disrupt the automatisation of skills-based learning. Within Dyslexia, cerebellar impairments have been correlated with 80% of cases of people with dyslexia. Certain studies in children who have had cerebellums removed due to brain tumours have shown poor executive function performance. This may explain why people with dyslexia can have further functional problems with organisation. A new insight in research connects linguistic function to the cerebellum. Specifically phonological processing is found more difficult.

It is shown that language can still be learned in patients who have cerebellar agenesis (absence of the cerebellum). The implications for this may be that the cerebellum is not involved in the linguistic process. However, it has also been shown that the cerebellum is a necessary tool in the normal population for automatizing language skills such as reading. If an individual has all the phonological knowledge stored in the brain then the cerebellum is no longer activated for this purpose. This suggests that it is possible to obtain language skills without the use of the cerebellum. In order to do this, it is necessary to find a way to encode phonological knowledge without the use of the cerebellum. Further research into this area could have a profound impact for people with cerebellar deficits/impairments (those with ADHD, ASD, Dyslexia/ lesions).

If there are effective learning interventions used to teach languages to somebody who has cerebellar agenesis, then it can be postulated that these would be the most effective techniques to teach those with specific cerebellar impairments.

To conclude, I think that new educational techniques can be enhanced for people with ADHD, ASD or Dyslexia. The method should focus on looking at how individuals with cerebellar agenesis learn best. If there is an effective method of learning for individuals without a cerebellum, then learning techniques exist that could bypass cerebellar function in this area and make it easier for people with development disorders to acquire language abilities. This would mean that people with learning disorders could utilise language at the same level as the typical population; but use different brain regions to achieve this goal.

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4 comments on “The “did I shut the front door?” hypothesis

  1. psuf10
    November 26, 2013

    While reading your blog an Idea struck me. English must be made more homographic to help dyslexics (George, 1972). Homographic languages have a 1 to 1 correspondence between written symbols and sounds they make (Trask, 1995). The problem with the English alphabet for dyslexics, is phonetically sounding out words, when letters often have a number of different phonetically sounds (Iribarren, 2007). The idea struck me was, why don’t we create a new alphabet, for dyslexics, using phonetic symbols (Husni, Yusof & Kamaruddin, 2013). This would mean children with dyslexia would have to learn, 107 letters (http://www.phon.ucl.ac.uk/home/wells/phoneticsymbolsforenglish.htm). This would allow dyslexic children to have a further grasp of English pronunciation. A paper by Husni, Yusof & Kamaruddin (2013) found that such symbols could help dyslexia with pronunciation. A program exists (http://www.photransedit.com/online/text2phonetics.aspx), which transcribes English text to English phonetic symbols. This would increase the homographic tendencies of the English language would, according to Brown & Loosemore (1994), make language easier for dyslexics to understand.

    If anyone with dyslexia is interested (I’m doing this myself) there are lessons on youtube (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fWbmOuq4eVs), which teaches you the phonetic symbols.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heterography_and_homography

    Iribarren, C. (2007). Description and detection of acquired dyslexia and dysgraphia in Spanish. Communication disorders in Spanish speakers, 231-242.

    Husni, H., Yusof, Y., & Kamaruddin, S. S. (2013). Evaluation of Automated Phonetic Labeling and Segmentation for Dyslexic Children’s Speech. InProceedings of the World Congress on Engineering (Vol. 2).

    George, H. V. (1972). Common Errors in Language Learning: Insights from English.

    Trask, R. L. (1995). A dictionary of phonetics and phonology. Psychology Press.

    Brown, G. D., & Loosemore, R. P. (1994). A computational approach to dyslexic reading and spelling. Developmental and acquired dyslexia: Neuropsychological and neurolinguistic perspectives, 319-334.

    • zzeiger
      December 3, 2013

      Dear Will, thank you for your comment.
      In my previous blog, I have talked about the reduced prevalence rates of dyslexia corresponding to the mapping of the Japanese writing and language system. In Japanese, the course structure allows for a definitive symbol to represent a specific sound. In the English writing system, the structure means that each letter must be combined to the letters next to it in order for the corresponding sound to be generated. This makes it much more difficult for people with dyslexia to write in English than in Japanese; especially because the sound of a string of letters can also be context dependent (i.e. read vs read vs red)*2. Evidence for this comes from prevalence rates of dyslexia in Japan*1 and also a case study*1 as sourced in my previous blog*1. Therefore maybe people with dyslexia will not have that disorder in all languages. The difficulty is orthographic (written) to phoneme (sound) matching in some languages are less related and the deciphering of this coding is implicated in the cerebellum.
      I am not suggesting the cerebellum as a root cause for all symptoms within the disorders. Furthermore, subsequent disruptions within this cerebellar system can have different effects due to the developmental time period at which the cerebellum is affected*3. Secondly, although this is the only common neural system between disorders, the heterogeneity in individuals with these disorders means that symptoms can be vastly different between people and cannot be generalised. With this in mind, I don’t think that specific characteristics the individual has within their disorder will ever be appropriately captured in a unified system; but I do think that a unified system can allow for any observed overlap of symptoms to be treated with the same interventions and reduce subsequent need for a solely individualised approach.
      Support for overlap of disorders comes from Gillberg and Kadesjo (2003)*4; they also state that there is not a dual assessment involved in the diagnosis; so as you say this may also be a reason why co-morbidity of disorders is not found in Japan and other countries also. In conclusion, I am not convinced that these ideas (albeit interesting) are grounds for me having a flaw in my hypothesis, but keep challenging it by all means!
      *1https://zeigersblog.wordpress.com/2013/11/14/bilingualism-an-insight-into/
      *2https://zeigersblog.wordpress.com/2013/11/29/the-cerebellar-deficit-implications-for-developmental-disorders/
      *3 https://zeigersblog.wordpress.com/2013/11/22/the-did-i-shut-the-front-door-hypothesis/
      *4http://www.hindawi.com/journals/np/2003/857623/abs/

  2. Pingback: The cerebellar deficit: Implications for developmental disorders. | zeigersblog

  3. Pingback: How the international phonological alphabet can help students with phonological dyslexia | psuf10

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This entry was posted on November 22, 2013 by .
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