Dyslexia may hide an unexpected evolutionary advantage

If people with dyslexia have trouble reading and writing, a recent study shows that this disorder could also encourage discovery and encourage creativity.

Dyslexia is one of those early childhood disabilities that often persist throughout life, especially without specialist treatment. This often represents a significant burden for those affected, but a current study has differentiated the clinical picture; The researchers explain that dyslexic people, in turn, benefit from an untold evolutionary advantage.

As a reminder, dyslexia is a reading and writing disorder which occurs in patients who do not suffer from a thought disorder. The underlying neurological mechanisms are still controversial, but it is one of the disabilities recognized in France since 1990, and with good reason: it has a significant impact on daily life in general, especially in the school and professional context.

For these reasons, one might intuitively think that dyslexia has only downsides. But a duo of young English researchers from the renowned University of Cambridge wanted to take this strictly negative interpretation in a research paper entitled ” Developmental Dyslexia: Disorder or Specialization in Exploration? discovered by Interesting Engineering.

The deficit-centric view of dyslexia doesn’t tell the whole story says researcher Helen Taylor. ” This work provides a new framework that helps us better understand the cognitive strengths of people with dyslexia. “.

© catalog of thoughts – Unsplash

A compromise between automatic control and mental effort

The reasoning is relatively simple and based on the main principles of development and neurology. Summarize, active thinking is an extremely energy-intensive act. However, in terms of natural selection, the high energy consumption is a major disadvantage. In addition, these processes fall under the reflex also have the advantage that they are very fast.

Based on this information, natural selection should have wiped out all creatures with advanced cognitive abilities. But on the other hand, being able to argue actively is an even greater advantage; It is largely thanks to this ability that humans have taken such a different trajectory than the rest of the animal kingdom.

Therefore, over the millennia, evolution has pushed certain species in the direction of a Compromise with a very specific neurological specialization. A large part of routine actions, such as breathing, posture management or digestion, depend on it fully autonomous neurological circuits.

Because of this, you don’t have to actively think about getting your heart beating to avoid fainting, for example. Conscious processes that are much more energy intensive are generally reserved for contextual casesand where this form of “autopilot” is not possible.

Like a private pilot with automatic navigation, a dyslexic brain has to juggle many complex parameters in real time. © Kristopher Allison – Unsplash

A brain dedicated to exploration?

In non-dyslexic individuals, the ability to interpret and produce text more or less depends on these automatisms once learning is complete. The advantage is that it is possible to read and write in a relative unconscious, with little effort.

But when this automatism is lacking, as in people with dyslexia, these actions require active effort—similar to a Airplane pilot deprived of his autopilot. So the nervous system is being addressed more regularly and more intensely… and that means it is more opportunities to explore new topics. With unexpected advantages.

When a skill becomes automatic, we access essentially the same information every time. ‘ explains Helen Taylor. ” Conversely, when a person struggles to acquire this automatism, they remain actively aware of the process. The advantage is that exploration can continue and other skills or processes can still be improved ‘ she specifies.

People with dyslexia would benefit from what researchers call ” meta adaptation “. For her, dyslexia is not just a ” neurocognitive disorder “, but above all a” Specialization in exploratory cognition research “.

© Robina Weermeijer – Unsplash

A fascinating field of research

In other words, these people would actually have some trouble using the information available to them; but so would they better at exploring new ways of learning and thinking. According to the researchers, this could have an advantage in terms of “ Discovery, invention and creativity “.

This study is still relatively exploratory, but nonetheless very interesting. She deletes a obvious question This could quickly be the subject of an experimental protocol to see if dyslexics are actually more efficient on these terrains.

As so often in neuropsychology, it will be necessary Be careful with conclusions. DCriteria such as creativity are very difficult to objectively quantify. But it remains a fascinating area of ​​research, especially since then comparable mechanisms could occur in other neurological disorders.

The text of the study can be found here.

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