Learning About Learning Disabilities || Brain and Behavioral Response to Intervention for Specific Reading, Writing, and Math Disabilities

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<ul><li><p>59Learning about Learning Disabilities 2012 Elsevier Inc.</p><p>All rights reserved.2012</p><p>Brain and Behavioral Response to Intervention for Specific Reading, Writing, and Math Disabilities: What Works for Whom?Virginia W. Berninger1, and Michael Dunn21University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195-3600, USA 2Washington State University, Vancouver, WA 98686-9600, USA</p><p>3</p><p>Chapter Contents</p><p>Learning about the Brain 60Defining Brain 60Brain Geography 60Brain Imaging Technologies 61Systems Approach 62Working Memory 64Controlled and Automatic Processing 65NatureNurture Interactions 65Comparing Reading, Writing, and Math Brains 66</p><p>Brain Differences of Individuals with and without SLDS 66Reading 66Writing 67Math 67</p><p>Behavioral and Brain Response to Intervention (RTI) 68RTI as a NatureNurture Perspective 68Behavioral RTI 70Brain Response to Intervention (RTI) 74</p><p>Individual, Developmental, Gender, Language, and Cultural Differences 76Longitudinal Studies 76Gender Differences 77Language and Cultural Differences 77Defining SLDs in Reading, Writing, and Math 77</p><p>Conclusions and Recommendations 80References 80</p><p>CHAPTER</p><p>http://dx.doi.org/ </p></li><li><p>Learning about Learning Disabilities60</p><p>LEARNING ABOUT THE BRAINDefining BrainThe human brain is a complex electrochemical organ with texture like jello. Weighing only about three pounds, this organ supports an individuals inner mental activity and interactions with the external environment. Brain initi-ates behaviors, and changes in response to environmental events; also, brain and genes in each neuron mediate response to intervention. Thus, brain is an independent variable, dependent variable, and intervening variable, respec-tively (Berninger &amp; Richards, 2009). Understanding the brain requires research on its structures, physiological functions, and behaviors, all of which are interrelated but not in a simple one-to-one way (Mesulam, 1990).</p><p>Only the sensory and motor systems have direct contact with the exter-nal world, but these systems create connections with the inner language and/or cognitive systems as well as with each other so that the inner systems can communicate with the external world through the sensory and motor end organs (Berninger &amp; Richards, 2011; Berninger, Fayol, &amp; Alamargot, 2012, Chapter 4, Table 4.4). Four separable functional language systemslanguage by ear (listening), language by mouth (speaking), language by eye (reading), and language by hand (writing)are created which can func-tion alone or in concert (Berninger &amp; Abbott, 2010). Cognitions can be translated into language (Fayol, Alamargot, &amp; Berninger, 2012) or non-language format (Dunn, 2012; also see section on Behavioral RTI, writing in this chapter). Most human cognition exists outside conscious awareness, but with support of working memory can be brought into consciousness for temporary goal-related tasks (Berninger, Rijlaarsdam, &amp; Fayol, 2012, Tables 3.1 through 3.5). Yet, what is probably the most remarkable about the human brain was best captured by a poet, not a neuroscientist, namely, the capacity of the brain to create an inner cognitive world to represent and conduct its own thinking as well as to receive incoming messages from the environment and behave in the environment. In the words of the poet Emily Dickenson (Poem 632 quoted by Diamond (1999, page 38)):</p><p>The Brainis wider than the skyForput them side by sideThe one the other will containWith easeand Youbeside.</p><p>Brain GeographyOver the years scientists have developed systems for locating brain regions (neuroanatomical structures) in 3-dimensional space and labeling these regions </p></li><li><p>Brain and Behavioral Response to Intervention for Specific Reading, Writing, and Math Disabilities 61</p><p>with names or numbers (e.g., for Brodmanns areas). Neuropsychologists have conducted postmortem studies and more recently brain imaging of living people to identify functions associated with the various specific regions. Books written specifically for educators and psychologists to learn about region- specific brain structures and functions include Berninger and Richards (2002), Blakemore and Frith (2005), and Posner and Rothbart (2007). Technology-supported ways to access and learn the regions and associated functions include (a) Carter et al. (2009, which includes an illustrated book and inter-active CD); (b) for PC users, the Brain Atlas accessed at www.cabiatl.com/mricro/mricro/mricro.html#Installation; and (c) for Mac Users, SPM, which requires metlab, should first be installed and then go to the Brain Atlas at http://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/SPM/Installation_on_Mac_OS_%28Intel%29.</p><p>It is important to keep in mind that many illustrations in books label structures on the surface; yet these structures are 3-dimensional and extend below the surface and many other structures exist below the sur-face that are not as easily depicted in 2-dimensional drawings. In addi-tion, brain regions are often reported for layers (slices) of brain images from top-to-bottom, or from right to left, or from back of the brain to the front. To identify specific brain structures or regions of brain activation, it is best to rely on reports by neuroscientists with specialized training and expertise in using a Brain Atlas.</p><p>Brain Imaging TechnologiesFor an overview of brain imaging technologies used to study the living human brain, see the Appendix in Blackmore and Frith (2005), introduc-tory material in Carter (2009), or Chapter 3 in Berninger and Richards (2002). In general, studies of specific learning disabilities (SLDs) use non-invasive techniques such as (a) structural (MRI), which constructs via computer programs, visualization of neuroanatomical structures (not pho-tographs of them); (b) functional (fMRI) magnetic resonance imaging of region-specific blood oxygen-level dependent (BOLD) activation, which shows specific brains regions that are using glucose to provide energy for processing; or (c) electrophysiological recordings of event-related potentials (ERPs), which record changes in brain wave activity over time from stim-ulus onset to response. Recently developed new techniques assess (a) both where and when activation occurs during scanning; (b) functional connec-tivity for which regions activate at the same time given a specific brain region source; and (c) structural connectivity of white fiber tracts that con-nect pathways distributed across brain regions (diffusion tensor imaging, </p><p>http://www.cabiatl.com/mricro/mricro/mricro.html#Installationhttp://www.cabiatl.com/mricro/mricro/mricro.html#Installationhttp://www.en.wikibooks.org/wiki/SPM/Installation_on_Mac_OS_%28Intel%29</p></li><li><p>Learning about Learning Disabilities62</p><p>DTI). In contrast, invasive techniques use radioactively labeled dyes to trace brain activity over time (PET) or radiation (CT scans). Typically insti-tutional review boards (IRB) do not approve use of invasive imaging tech-niques with developing children or youth with or without SLDs.</p><p>Systems ApproachA research-supported general principle is that brain function involves both local and global activity. Jackson (1887) startled fellow neurologists by claiming that the brain has multi-level organization. Subsequent research has supported these claims. Brain mechanisms depend (a) on structures and functions in individual neurons, (b) the momentary functional con-nectivity between individual neurons separated by a small space (syn-apse), (c) the pathways consisting of many synapsed neurons distributed across brain regions, and (d) the computations of the six layers of cere-bral cortex that periodically coordinate the brain activity distributed in space and sequenced over time (see Berninger &amp; Richards, 2002, 2011). Also, primary brain regions specialize in uni-modal sensory or motor mes-sages; secondary brain regions specialize in hetero-modal messages, which integrate across sensory input and motor output regions, or between lan-guage regions and a sensory or motor output region; and tertiary brain regions specialize in processing at an abstract level independent of sensory, motor, or sensory-motor codes, for example, in cognitive operations such as thinking.</p><p>Luria (1962, 1973), the Russian neuropsychologist, further contributed to understanding of functional brain systems in the working brain with these four insights based on careful clinical observations and assessments:a. Multiple brain regions distributed throughout the brain are involved in </p><p>performing a specific function.b. It follows that functional systems for performing a specific task or </p><p>function have multiple structural and functional components.c. Different tasks draw on common as well as unique brain regions in the </p><p>interrelated pathways.d. Thus, the same brain region may participate in more than one func-</p><p>tional system.Minsky (1986), a leading architect of artificial intelligence, talked to neuro-scientists throughout the country, built robots to test computational mod-els, created a model that involved multiple systems or a society of mind, and consulted with a poet to find this metaphor to explain the model to the general public. In the Society of Mind Model, a typical agent in a system </p></li><li><p>Brain and Behavioral Response to Intervention for Specific Reading, Writing, and Math Disabilities 63</p><p>knows its jobto switch other agents or pathways on (excitatory) or off (inhibitory), but is typically unaware of the activities of other agents, even when its activities may exert indirect influences on agents far down the communication loop. Thus, the Society of Mind conceptual frame-work accounts for most human cognition being outside conscious aware-ness. Moreover, the different distributed brain regions are on different temporal scales (momentary time). That is, time, just like Euclidean space, is multidimensional. Periodically, cerebral cortical computations synchro-nize the various brain activities occurring in momentary time to a com-mon scale, based on linear time, in what is often referred to as real time. This synchronizing gives rise to brain waves. Patterns of communica-tion across local and global societies of mind in space and time change across development and learning, but are always partial in that agencies and societies (collections of agents) do not code in the same way and only have indirect knowledge of each other through models they create for transforming codes in one domain to codes in other domains. Thus, the Societies of Mind model is consistent with cognitive-linguistic transla-tion as a cross-domain transformation process (see Berninger, Fayol et al., 2012; Berninger &amp; Hayes, 2012; Berninger, Rijlaarsdam, &amp; Fayol, 2012; Fayol et al., 2012).</p><p>Fuster (1997), who devoted his career to studying working memory in laboratory rats, contributed ground-breaking knowledge about the three distributed neural networks that serve as the brain basis of the working memory system, which supports goal-related activity.a. A back-to-front pathway originates in primary brain systems in the back </p><p>of the brain, receives incoming sensory messages (e.g., visual, auditory, touch), and sends them forward to secondary association areas where they are integrated with each other or other systems.</p><p>b. A top-down pathway originates in dorsal lateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) that projects to midlevel premotor and supplementary motor areas and then to lower-level primary motor areas in the frontal brain regions, and then to spinal cord, which supports the elements of move-ment in behavior that acts in or on the external world.</p><p>c. A cortical-subcortical pathway from cerebrum to cerebellum provides temporal coordination of the sequential and parallel processes unfold-ing in momentary time and periodically synchronized in real time (see Minsky, 1986), and thus serves as executive functions for self-regulating attention, working memory, learning, and behavior (see Posner &amp; Rothbart, 2007).</p></li><li><p>Learning about Learning Disabilities64</p><p>Posner, Peterson, Fox, and Raichle (1988), who did the first brain imaging study of reading, introduced a metaphor for brainthe orchestration of the mindthat cap-tures what the brain is from a complex systems perspective. Each of the brain regions, with specialized computation expertise, is analogous to the individual musicians and their various instruments in the orchestra. For the orchestra to create music, each of these musicians must not only produce the technically cor-rect sounds, but also must coordinate them in temporal synchrony. If any of the musicians (brain structures) lacks expertise or momentarily does not play the instrument correctly or synchronously with the other instruments (brain func-tion), the result will be noise rather than music. In an analogous fashion, if any brain structure is underdeveloped or impaired or cannot function in concert with other structures in the brain system, the brain and mind it constructs will not develop, learn, or function normally.</p><p>Working MemoryThe University of Washington Interdisciplinary Learning Disability Center (UWLDC), conducted genetics, brain imaging, assessment, and instruc-tional research for students in grades 4 to 9 who had not responded adequately to reading and/or writing instruction in school and also had multi-generational history of SLDs affecting written language acquisition. The interdisciplinary research findings across a decade were captured in a systems model of working memory with (a) three word-form storage and processing units (phonological for spoken words, orthographic for written words, and morphological for word parts that signal meaning and gram-mar); (b) syntax storage and processing units for accumulating, serial words; (c) phonological and orthographic loops for cross-code integration; and (d) executive functions for working memory (focusing, switching, and sustaining atten-tion, and self-monitoring over time) (e.g., Berninger, Raskind, Richards, Abbott, &amp; Stock, 2008; Berninger &amp; Richards, 2010). Likewise, studies across alphabetic (Paulesu et al., 2000) and non-alphabetic orthographies (Tan, Spinks, Eden, Perfetti, &amp; Siok, 2005) found differences between par-ticipants with and without reading disability in brain regions associated with working memory. Also, brain imaging studies have documented the role of working memory in math learning (Meyer, Salimpoor, Wu, Geary, &amp; Menon, 2010; Wu, Meyer, Maeda, Salimpoor, Tomiyama, Geary, &amp; Menon, 2008). Behavioral studies have shown that in English-Language Learners (ELLs) working memory skill differentiates those who do and do not respond to reading and math instruction (Swanson, Jerman, &amp; Zheng, 2008; Swanson, Sez, &amp; Gerber, 2006; Swanson, Sez, Gerber, &amp; Leafstedt, 2004).</p></li><li><p>Brain and Behavioral Response to Intervention for Specific Reading, Writing, and Math Disabilities 65</p><p>Controlled and Automatic ProcessingSchneider and Shriffin (1977) and Shriffin and Schneider (1977) con-ducted pioneering studies that compared controlled, strategic processing in learning new skills and automatic...</p></li></ul>