This is what emerges from a study conducted by two young researchers from the Department of General Psychology of the University of Padua, Sandro Franceschini and Sara Bertoni, published in the scientific journal ‘Neuropsychology’ entitled “Improving action video games abilities increases the phonological decoding speed and phonological short-term memory in children with developmental dyslexia”. 

Dyslexia rarely involves only reading, it is frequently associated with other specific learning disorders such as dysorthography, dyscalculia and dysgraphia. It affects one in 20 children and represents the most common neuro-evolutive disorder.

Previous scientific studies of researchers – in 2013 on ‘Current Biology’, Action Video Games: Make Dyslexic Children Read Better and in 2017 on ‘Scientific Reports’ A different vision of dyslexia: Local precedence on global perception and Action video games improve reading abilities and visual-to-auditory attentional shifting in English-speaking children with dyslexia – have already shown how an experimental treatment through the use of action videogames was able to improve reading speed, attentional skills and short term verbal memory (that is, that of the sounds of the language that is used when we read) in children with dyslexia.

Sandro Franceschini and Sara Bertoni of the “Laboratory of cognitive developmental neuroscience”, directed by Professor Andrea Facoetti of the University of Padua, demonstrate with a clinical study of 18 children with severe dyslexia resistant to all traditional treatments, that not all small subjects with dyslexia benefit from the use of video games in the cure: only those who can improve their score during the games the video game gets a benefit. 

This discovery paves the way for the study of attentive, perceptive and motor skills to better understand why some children find it difficult to acquire the “rules of the game”.

Toddler Reading Book“Published research shows that in training with action video games, as well as for other treatments for dyslexia, supervision by an expert in neuro-psychological rehabilitation of development is necessary. In addition to the knowledge of the underlying disorder and those related to the treatment in question, we must be aware that we are working with developing subjects, with a very plastic brain and with systems that are not completely mature. It is not enough to put a child in front of a screen with a video game in order to obtain an improvement in reading speed and short term verbal memory”,  says Sara Bertoni.

The treatment lasted two weeks (12 meetings of one hour a day) on children with an average age of 9 years. The children were offered two commercial videogames of action with a high speed of presentation and unpredictability of the events – which mainly appear in the periphery of the visual field – required them to rapidly expose their visual attention. At the end of the training, the children were divided into two groups based on the performance of the scores in video games. From the final results it was found that the group with higher game scores was also the one that obtained greater benefits in reading and memory.

person using computer playing FPS game“In particular, the reading was tested considering time and errors before and after treatment,” continues Sara Bertoni. “We have measured their ability to correctly repeat a sequence of “non-words”, i.e. invented words, after hearing them said aloud. Not being the words of common language, children with dyslexia could remember a longer list of non-words to memorise and repeat. No child has abandoned the treatment despite being intensive, which indicates how it was not fatiguing or frustrating as other treatments”.

“In this article, evaluating a clinical sample of children with dyslexia, we demonstrate as a training based on visual and attention stimulation, through videogames, it seems to be effective only if the children, in the game, are able to effectively use the skills attentive and perceptual that are also used in reading. This data helps to better understand the link between visual-attentive abilities and reading skills. The improvement in reading speed obtained by children able to progress in the videogame corresponds to the improvement that a child with dyslexia would get in a whole year of spontaneous development.”

“In one year of spontaneous development it was calculated that the improvement should be on average 0.15 syllables per second. After the guided use of videogames we measured an improvement of 0.12 syllables per second. It is also important to underline that the improvement also involves short-term phonological memory skills and not just reading skills, demonstrating a possible general effect linked to attention skills”, underlines Sandro Franceschini.