A psychological investigation into the relationship between hemispheric functioning and specific written language difficulties (dyslexia), using pharmaceutical intervention techniques
This thesis attempts a psychological investigation of hemispheric functioning in developmental dyslexia. Previous work using neuropsychological methods with developmental dyslexics is reviewed ,and original work is presented both of a conventional psychometric nature and also utilising a new means of intervention. At the inception of inquiry into dyslexia, comparisons were drawn between developmental dyslexia and acquired alexia, promoting a model of brain damage as the common cause. Subsequent investigators found developmental dyslexics to be neurologically intact, and so an alternative hypothesis was offered, namely that language is abnormally localized (not in the left hemisphere). Research in the last decade, using the advanced techniques of modern neuropsychology, has indicated that developmental dyslexics are probably left hemisphere dominant for language. The development of a new type of pharmaceutical prep~ration (that appears to have a left hemisphere effect) offers an oppertunity to test the experimental hypothesis. This hypothesis propounds that most dyslexics are left hemisphere language dominant, but some of these language related operations are dysfunctioning. The methods utilised are those of psychological assessment of cognitive function, both in a traditional psychometric situation, and with a new form of intervention (Piracetam). The information resulting from intervention will be judged on its therapeutic validity and contribution to the understanding of hemispheric functioning in dyslexics. The experimental studies using conventional psychometric evaluation revealed a dyslexic profile of poor sequencing and name coding ability, with adequate spatial and verbal reasoning skills. Neuropsychological information would tend to suggest that this profile was indicative of adequate right hemsiphere abilities and deficits in some left hemsiphere abilities. When an intervention agent (Piracetam) was used with young adult dyslexics there were improvements in both the rate of acquisition and conservation of verbal learning. An experimental study with dyslexic children revealed that Piracetam appeared to improve reading, writing and sequencing, but did not influence spatial abilities. This would seem to concord with other recent findings, that deve~mental dyslexics may have left hemisphere language localisation, although some of these language related abilities are dysfunctioning.