Dyslexia, the Cerebellum and Phonological Skill

  • A. J. Fawcett
Part of the Neuropsychology and Cognition book series (NPCO, volume 20)


The identification of a range of causal hypotheses for reading difficulties in dyslexia has been a major achievement of dyslexia research over the last decade. Causal hypotheses should be capable of explaining the difficulties, via the “cognitive” level of explanation in terms of primitive sub-skills, to dysfunction of some neurological structure. Any complete theory of dyslexia should account for problems in phonological skill, motor skill, automatisation and speed. It is now claimed that the cerebellum is involved not only in the automatisation of motor skill, but also the acquisition of skills related to language, making cerebellar dysfunction a prime candidate for an underlying cause of dyslexia. In earlier research, using standard clinical tests (Fawcett, Nicolson, & Dean, 1996) we established clear but indirect evidence in support of this hypothesis. Direct evidence derived from a PET study of motor skill learning in dyslexic adults, which showed significantly lowered activation in the cerebellum in comparison with controls (Nicolson & Fawcett, 1999a, b). In this chapter, I outline the most likely route by which cerebellar problems might lead to reading and spelling difficulties, via the role of the cerebellum in the development of articulation (a skill requiring fluent, precisely timed co-articulation between numerous effectors). I then present a study on articulation deficits in dyslexia, which demonstrates that children with dyslexia have significant problems in articulation, not only in motor planning, but also in the speeded production of single articulatory gestures. This is consistent with the cerebellar impairment hypothesis. Investigation of this hypothetical route of skill acquisition from infancy to school would provide a fruitful research agenda.


Motor Skill Phonological Awareness Developmental Dyslexia Dyslexic Child Phonological Skill 
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