Can Action Videogames Help Dyslexics?

A team of scientists from the University of Padua has found that playing action video games markedly increased the reading speeds of students with dyslexia without losing reading accuracy. “These results are clear enough to say that action video games are able to improve reading abilities in children with dyslexia,” says Andrea Facoetti, the psychologist in charge of the team.

The scientists believe that the video games help to improve tracking of peripheral objects in a chaotic screen (or sheet of paper). This allowed the dyslexic students to track the line that they were currently reading instead of the words around it. The study also tested a group of students who played less chaotic video games for the same amount of time. The group with the less chaotic video games did not display any major improvement in reading speed.

However, there is a great deal of debate about the results of the study. “Action video games deserve scrutiny as possible dyslexia fighters,” says cognitive neuroscientist Bruce McCandliss of Vanderbilt University in Nashville, “But the new study doesn’t necessarily prove their worth in allaying severe reading problems.”

Critics are also questioning the effectiveness of this strategy for other languages. Italian, the language that the study was using, is considered more ‘straightforward’ than English. In languages like English, letters can correspond to multiple sounds depending on context. The study’s critics argue that this is far less common in Italian.