[MUSIC, Title: "Dyslexia and Declarative Learning"] [Terry] The world is an extraordinarily rich and diverse place. Filled with the most beautiful plants and creatures we can imagine, large and small. And just as there is a rich and diverse universe, there is a rich and diverse "neuroverse." As we've mentioned in our first course, there can be enormous neural diversity in the different students we have in our classroom. For example, students in a typical classroom can have broad variations in their working memory capacity. [Barb] Although there are many different ways that student brains can vary, in this module, we'd like to focus on differences in students' abilities to learn either declaratively or procedurally. Many students seem to learn well through both pathways. For these students, it's important that we try to balance and alternate our approaches to teaching to help learning unfold through both pathways. But of course, some students may have slightly different neural underpinnings that make either procedural or declarative learning a bit easier for them. So, they may tend to rely on their favored approach. For these students, asking them to stretch a tiny bit by teaching through methods that apply to both pathways can also be good teaching. But for a few students, bigger deficits in either the declarative or the procedural learning pathways, along with other neural differences, may mean that a student can rely far more on one system than the other for their learning. For these students, it's generally not a question of pushing them to use both learning pathways in the interest of broadening their conceptual understanding of the materials. That would be the equivalent of expecting a visually impaired student to practice seeing the material with their eyes to improve their reading abilities— whether or not their eyes are functional. A widely known expert in the declarative procedural theories of language learning, which, as research is beginning to reveal, also applies to learning in math and other areas— is Professor Michael Ullman of Georgetown University. In fact, we'd like to point out that Dr. Ullman's brilliant work has served as both the spark and foundation of our own writing and teaching related to the declarative and procedural learning pathways. [Beth] Dr. Ullman's work reinforces from a neuroscientific perspective that when it comes to neurally diverse students, we teachers need to be aware and plan accordingly to best help our students who learn standard school work very differently—and sometimes with much more difficulty than others. It's important to remember that hiker-type students really can be doing the best that they can, even when it looks as if they're simply not paying attention, which can be hard for them to do or it seems they're being purposefully absent-minded or careless. For these students, much as with my own disrupted learning after my concussion, there can be certain approaches to learning that are difficult or even impossible for them to perform. Let's take a look at some of what research has hinted at. These approaches to understanding differences in learning provide an intriguing framework for understanding the neurally diverse students in our classroom. [MUSIC, Title: "Challenges with the Procedural Learning Pathway"] [Terry] Dyslexia is a reading-related disorder that affects about seven percent of the population. There are over 20 million dyslectics in the US alone, and you probably have at least one dyslectic pupil in your class. The cause of dyslexia remains tantalizingly out of reach. But most researchers agree that phonological deficits are a hallmark of the condition. That is impaired awareness of the sounds of speech, poor verbal, short-term memory, and slow ability to retrieve words. But dyslexia has a broader neural basis. As we mentioned earlier, 40 percent of people with dyslexia also have problems with processing related to math. Evidence is beginning to emerge that part of the challenge for those with dyslexia may center on differences within the procedural learning system. This may be why those with dyslexia can also have difficulty coordinating muscles in the throat to produce sounds, along with difficulty in making simple calculations or the rapid naming of colors, objects, or letters. [Beth] Sadly, a frequent comment about someone with dyslexia, is that he or she is lazy and just needs to try harder. It's like telling a kid in a scuba outfit that all they need to do is just try harder to keep up with the rest of the kids in the track team. The brains of those with dyslexia are geared for a different environment than typical book learning. Incidentally, Jack Horner, now recognized as one of the most important paleontologists in the world and the inspiration for one of the lead characters of the movie "Jurassic Park," has severe dyslexia. He flunked out of the University of Montana SEVEN times. [Barb] Those with dyslexia may have underperformance in some aspects of their procedural system, but the consequence seems to be that they can begin to OVERPERFORM in unusual ways with their declarative and perhaps other neural systems—and sometimes in extremely beneficial ways. These differences can allow those with dyslexia to be highly visual rather than word or number oriented in their ways of thinking about the world. This can make those with dyslexia highly sensitive to abnormalities and anomalies in patterns and images. As with the ultrasound specialist who's able to detect abnormalities in scans that everyone else misses. Or the code breaker who can crack complex cyber codes where others don't even know where to begin. These unusual abilities with visual space and time have helped fuel the success of Nobel Prize winning scientists with dyslexia, like Carol Greider, discoverer of the critical telomerase enzyme; and Venezuelan-born Baruj Benacerraf, who made fantastic advances in our understanding of the immune system. Other extraordinary individuals with dyslexia include Muhammad Ali and Steven Spielberg—who notes that it takes him twice as long as other people to read books or scripts, which also allows him to absorb the script more deeply. His ability to visualize with film imagery may in part be fueled by his dyslexia— images speak more powerfully to him than words. But the list of the famous with dyslexia includes as well one of my favorite authors when I was growing up, science fiction writer, Octavia Butler. Many language and reading tests, incidentally, reveal only the areas where those with dyslexia do poorly. These tests are rarely designed to show the special capabilities of those with dyslexia to perform BETTER on novel tasks or to see matters as wholes rather than parts. For example, scientist, James Lovelock had dyslexia, which slowed his speed on exams and caused confusion in handling certain mathematical equations. But he's also famous for his big picture thinking, such as his proposal of the Gaia hypothesis, which posits that plants and animals on earth help regulate the gases on the planet, which in turn regulate the temperature of the planet. Many scientists who center on their particular area of expertise just don't tend to think in such a big picture way. Many with dyslexia, including Octavia Butler and Steven Spielberg, were bullied in their early years, in part due to their slowness in learning. In many disciplines, those with dyslexia often prefer to keep their condition secret. After all, they can underperform when words and numbers rather than images are involved— and it's not like words and numbers are unimportant. But their unusual ability to visualize the big picture can be valuable assets. Surgeons with dyslexia, for example, may struggle through parts of medical school, but their exceptional spatial reasoning skills can allow them to visualize the complex effects of their surgery in ways that other surgeons cannot. Perhaps this is the origin of the old quip: "Never trust a surgeon who can spell." We've seen what happens with dyslexia and its ability to strengthen certain novel ways of learning. But are there related syndromes? Is it still possible to succeed? Follow us to the next video as the plot thickens. [Beth] I'm Beth Rogowsky. [Barb] I'm Barb Oakley. [Terry] I'm Terry Sejnowski. [All] Learn it, link it, let's do it!