Annals of Dyslexia

, Volume 46, Issue 1, pp 259–283 | Cite as

Impaired performance of children with dyslexia on a range of cerebellar tasks

  • Angela J. Fawcett
  • Roderick I. Nicolson
  • Paul Dean
Part III Cognitive And Neurological Factors In Dyslexia


It is now thought that the cerebellum is involved in the acquisition of “language dexterity” in addition to its established role in motor skill acquisition and execution. Mild cerebellar impairment, therefore, provides a possible explanation of a range of problems shown by children with dyslexia. The authors have established suggestive evidence in support of this hypothesis in tests of balance and of time estimation. In a further test of the hypothesis, a battery of clinical tests for cerebellar impairment, including tests of muscle tone and of coordination, was administered to matched groups of children with dyslexia and control children aged 10, 14, and 18 years (55 subjects in all). The children with dyslexia showed highly significant impairments on all the cerebellar tests, and significant impairment compared even with reading age controls on 11 of the 14 tasks. Deficits on the majority of tests were among the largest found in our research program. The findings, therefore, provide further intriguing evidence of cerebellar impairment in dyslexia. We speculate that the well-established phonological deficits in dyslexia may arise initially from inefficient articulatory control attributable to cerebellar impairment.


Motor Skill Phonological Awareness Dyslexia Developmental Dyslexia Dyslexic Child 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. American Psychiatric Association 1987.Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 3rd edition, Revised. Washington DC: American Psychiatric Association.Google Scholar
  2. Akshoomoff, N. A., and Courchesne, E. 1992. A new role for the cerebellum in cognitive operations.Behavioral Neuroscience 106:731–38.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Albus, J. S. 1971.A Theory of Cerebellar Function. Mathematical Biosciences 10:25–61.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Augur, J. 1985. Guidelines for teachers, parents and learners. In M. Snowling (ed.),Children’s Written Language Difficulties. Windsor: NFER Nelson.Google Scholar
  5. Barinaga, M. 1996. The Cerebellum: Movement coordinator or much more?Science 272:482–83.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Boder, E. 1973. Developmental dyslexia: A diagnostic approach based on three atypical spelling-reading patterns.Developmental Medicine and Child Neurology 15:663–87.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bradley, L., and Bryant, P. E. 1983. Categorising sounds and learning to read: A causal connection.Nature 301:419–21.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Bryant, P., and Goswami, U. 1986. Strengths and weaknesses of the reading level design.Psychological Bulletin 100:101–03.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Cohen, J. 1969.Statistical Power Analysis for the Behavioral Sciences. New York: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  10. Courchesne, E., Townsend, J., Akshoomoff, N. A., Saitoh, O., Yeungcourchesne, R., Lincoln, A. J., James, H. E., Haas, R. H., Screibman, L., and Lau, I. 1994. Impairment in shifting attention in autistic and cerebellar patients.Behavioral Neuroscience 108:848–65.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Decety, J., Sjoholm, H., Ryding, E., Stenberg, G., and Ingvar, D. H. 1990. The cerebellum participates in mental activity-tomographic measurements of regional cerebral blood flow.Brain Research 535:313–17.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Denckla, M. B., and Rudel, R. G. 1978. Anomalies of motor development in hyperactive boys.Annals of Neurology 3:231–33.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Denckla, M. B., Rudel, R. G., Chapman, C., and Krieger, J. 1985. Motor performance in dyslexic children with and without attentional disorders.Archives of Neurology 42:228–31.Google Scholar
  14. Denckla, M. B. 1985. Motor coordination in children with dyslexia: Theoretical and clinical implications. In F. H. Duffy and N. Geschwind (eds.),Dyslexia: A Neuroscientific Approach. Boston: Little Brown.Google Scholar
  15. Denckla, M. B., and Rudel, R.G. 1976. Rapid ‘Automatized’ naming (R.A.N.). Dyslexia differentiated from other learning disabilities.Neuropsychologia 14:471–79.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Dow, R. S., and Moruzzi, G. 1958.The Physiology and Pathology of the Cerebellum. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.Google Scholar
  17. Eccles, J. C, Ito, M., and Szentagothai, J. 1967.The Cerebellum as a Neuronal Machine. New York: Springer-Verlag.Google Scholar
  18. Fawcett, A. J., and Nicolson, R. I. 1995a. Persistent deficits in motor skill for children with dyslexia.Journal of Motor Behavior 27:235–40.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Fawcett, A. J., and Nicolson, R. I. 1995b. Persistence of phonological awareness deficits in older children with dyslexia.Reading and Writing: An Interdisciplinary Journal 7:361–76.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Fiez, J. A., Petersen, S. E., Cheney, M. K., and Raichle, M. E. 1992. Impaired non-motor learning and error detection associated with cerebellar damage: A single case study.Brain 115:155–78.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Fowler, A. 1991. How early phonological development might set the stage for phoneme awareness. In S. Brady and D. Shankweiler (eds.),Phonological Processes in Literacy. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar
  22. Frank, J., and Levinson, H. N. 1973. Dysmetric dyslexia and dyspraxia: Hypothesis and study.Journal of American Academy of Child Psychiatry 12:690–701.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Galaburda, A. M., Rosen, G. D., and Sherman, G. F. 1989. The neural origin of developmental dyslexia: Implications for medicine, neurology and cognition. In A. M. Galaburda (ed.),From Reading to Neurons. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  24. Gao, J-H., Parsons, L. M., Bower, J. M., Jinhu, X., Li, J., and Fox, P. T. 1996. Cerebellum implicated in sensory acquisition and discrimination rather than motor control.Science 272:545–47.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Glickstein, M. 1993. Motor skills but not cognitive tasks.Trends in Neuroscience 16:450–51.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Haslum, M. N. 1989. Predictors of dyslexia?Irish Journal of Psychology 10:622–30.Google Scholar
  27. Holmes, G. 1917. The symptoms of acute cerebellar injuries due to gunshot injuries.Brain 40:461–535.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Holmes, G. 1939. The cerebellum of man.Brain 62:1–30.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Ito, M. 1990. A new physiological concept on cerebellum.Revue Neurologique (Paris) 146:564–69.Google Scholar
  30. Ito, M. 1993. Movement and thought: Identical control mechanisms by the cerebellum.Trends in Neuroscience 16:448–50.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Ivry, R. B., and Keele, S. W. 1989. Timing functions of the cerebellum.Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience 1:136–52.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Jenkins, I. H., Brooks, D. J., Nixon, P.D., Frackowiak, R. S. J., and Passingham, R. E. 1994. Motor sequence learning: A study with positron emission tomography.Journal of Neuroscience 14:3775–90.Google Scholar
  33. Krupa, D. J., Thompson, J. K. and Thompson, R. F. 1993. Localization of a memory trace in the mammalian brain.Science 260:989–91.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Leiner, H. C., Leiner, A. L., and Dow, R. S. 1989. Reappraising the cerebellum: What does the hindbrain contribute to the forebrain?Behavioural Neuroscience 103:998–1008.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Leiner, H. C., Leiner, A. L., and Dow, R. S. 1993. Cognitive and language functions of the human cerebellum.Trends in Neuroscience 16:444–47.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Levinson, H. N. 1988. The cerebellar-vestibular basis of learning disabilities in children, adolescents and adults: Hypothesis and study.Perceptual and Motor Skills 67:983–1006.Google Scholar
  37. Liberman, A. M. 1957. Some results of research on speech perception.Journal of the Acoustical Society of America 29:117–23.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Locke, J. L. 1993.The Child’s Path to Spoken Language. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  39. Lovegrove, W. J., Garzia, R. P., and Nicholson, S. B. 1990. Experimental evidence of a transient system deficit in specific reading disability.Journal of the American Optometric Association 61:137–46.Google Scholar
  40. Marr, D. 1969. A Theory of Cerebellar Cortex.Journal of Physiology 202:437–70.Google Scholar
  41. Nicolson, R. I., and Fawcett, A. J. 1990. Automaticity: A new framework for dyslexia research?Cognition 35:159–82.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Nicolson, R. I., and Fawcett, A. J. 1994a. Comparison of deficits in cognitive and motor skills among children with dyslexia.Annals of Dyslexia 44:147–64Google Scholar
  43. Nicolson, R. I., and Fawcett, A. J. 1994b. Reaction times and dyslexia.Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology 47A:29–48.Google Scholar
  44. Nicolson, R. I., and Fawcett, A. J. 1994c. Spelling remediation for dyslexic children: A skills approach. In G. D. A. Brown and N. C. Ellis (eds.),Handbook of Spelling: Theory, Process and Intervention. Chichester: Wiley.Google Scholar
  45. Nicolson, R. I., and Fawcett, A. J. 1995. Dyslexia is more than a phonological disability.Dyslexia: An International Journal of Research and Practice 1:19–37.Google Scholar
  46. Nicolson, R. I., Fawcett, A. J., and Dean, P. 1995. Time estimation deficits in developmental dyslexia: Evidence for cerebellar involvement.Proceedings of the Royal Society 259:43–47.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Orton Dyslexia Society 1995. Definition of dyslexia: Report from committee of members.Perspectives 21:16–17.Google Scholar
  48. Paulesu, E., Frith, C. D., and Frackowiak, R. J. 1993. The neural correlates of the verbal component of working memory.Nature 362:342–45.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Psychological Corporation. 1993.Wechsler Objective Reading Dimensions. Sidcup, U.K.: The Psychological Corporation, Europe.Google Scholar
  50. Ramsay, D. S. 1984. Onset of duplicated syllable babbling and unimanual handedness in infants: Evidence for developmental change in hemispheric specialization?Developmental Psychology 20:64–71.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Rudel, R. G. 1985. The definition of dyslexia: Language and motor deficits. In F. H. Duffy and N. Geschwind (eds.),Dyslexia: a Neuroscientific Approach to Clinical Evaluation. Boston, MA: Little Brown.Google Scholar
  52. Shankweiler, D., Crain, S., Katz, L., Fowler, A. E., Liberman, A. M., Brady, S. A., Thornton, R., Lundquist, E., Dreyer, L., Fletcher, J. M., Stuebing, K. K., Shaywitz, S. E., and Shaywitz, B. A. 1995. Cognitive profiles of reading-disabled children—comparison of language-skills in phonology, morphology, and syntax.Psychological Science 6:149–56.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Share, D. L., McGee, R., and Silva, P. A. 1986. Motor function in dyslexic children with and without attentional disorders.Journal of Human Movement Studies 6:313–20.Google Scholar
  54. Silveri, M. C., Leggio, M. G., and Molinari, M. 1994. The cerebellum contributes to linguistic production: A case of agrammatic speech following a right cerebellar lesion.Neurology 44:2047–2050.Google Scholar
  55. Snowling, M., and Hulme, C. 1994. The development of phonological skills.Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London B 346:21–27.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Stanovich, K. E. 1988. Explaining the differences between the dyslexic and the garden-variety poor reader: The phonological-core variable-difference model.Journal of Learning Disabilities 21:590–612.Google Scholar
  57. Stein, J. F. 1989. Visuospatial perception and reading problems.Irish Journal of Psychology 10:521–33.Google Scholar
  58. Stein, J. F., and Glickstein, M. 1992. Role of the cerebellum in visual guidance of movement.Physiological Reviews 72:972–1017.Google Scholar
  59. Studdert-Kennedy, M. 1991. Language development from an evolutionary perspective. In N. Krasnegor, D. Rumbaugh, R. Schiefelbusch, and M. Studdert-Kennedy eds.),Language Acquisition: Biological and Behavioral Determinants. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar
  60. Thach, W. T. 1996 in press. On the specific role of the cerebellum in motor learning and cognition: Clues from PET activation and lesion studies in man.Brain and Behavioural Sciences.Google Scholar
  61. Thomson, M. E. 1990.Developmental Dyslexia: Its Nature, Assessment and Remediation. (3rd ed.). London: Whurr.Google Scholar
  62. Vellutino, F. R. 1979.Dyslexia: Theory and Research. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  63. Wechsler, D. 1976.Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children Revised (WISC-R). Sidcup, U.K.: The Psychological Corporation, Europe.Google Scholar
  64. Wise, B. W., and Olson, R. K. 1995. Computer-based phonological awareness and reading-instruction,Annals of Dyslexia 45:99–122.Google Scholar
  65. Wolf, M. 1991. Naming speed and reading: The contribution of the cognitive neurosciences.Reading Research Quarterly 26:123–41.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Wolff, P., Michel, G. F., Ovrut, M., and Drake, C. 1990. Rate and timing precision of motor coordination in developmental dyslexia.Developmental Psychology 26:349–59.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. World Federation of Neurology 1968.Report of Research Group on Dyslexia and World Illiteracy. Dallas: WFN.Google Scholar
  68. Yap, R. L., and van der Leij, A. 1994. Testing the automatization deficit hypothesis of dyslexia via a dual task paradigm.Journal of Learning Disabilities 27:660–65.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© The Orton Dyslexia Society 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • Angela J. Fawcett
    • 1
  • Roderick I. Nicolson
    • 1
  • Paul Dean
    • 1
  1. 1.University of SheffieldUnited Kingdom

Personalised recommendations