Efficacy of reading intervention

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Intervention for poor readers with reading delay are based on two ideas: the first one is to improve phonological awareness and the second one is to improve reading comprehension. Today we report a study from Hatcher et al., 2006, which talks about the efficacy of a small reading intervention with beginning readers with reading-delay. The intervention was delivered in daily www.telepsicologiainfantil.comtwenty minutes sessions. The program combine phonemic awareness training, word and test reading, and phonological linkage exercices. They found a difference between the control group and the group who received the intervention. Children made significantly more progress on letter knowledge, single word reading and phoneme awareness. Poor initial literacy skills seem to predict the failure of the intervention. Also around one quarter of the children didn’t respond to the intervention and seem to need more intensive help.

Intervention for reading comprehension improvement tend to focus on the next activities:

  • Identification of main ideas or thematic

  • Construction of inference

  • Construction of abstracting

  • Self-monitoring of reading comprehension

  • Graphic organizers

  • Generation of self-questioning

In the study of Ripoll and Aguado (2013) they conclude that interventions based on teaching strategies, increasing vocabulary and increasing motivation for reading or decoding, have shown signifcant effects on reading comprehension of spanish speaking students. Another interesting conclusion is that reciprocal teaching seems to be a good method for teaching reading comprehension strategies.

In another study from Hacther et al., (2006), they evaluate the effectiveness of the UK Early Literacy (ELS) programme relative to a programme of reading intervention based on “sound linkage”. In this study they compare the effectivity between training phonemic awareness or training letter-sound knowledge. They conclude that both interventions have equivalent gains in reading and spelling.

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Hatcher, P. J., Goetz, K., Snowling, M. J., Hulme, C., Gibbs, S., & Smith, G. (2006). Evidence for the effectiveness of the Early Literacy Support programme. The British journal of educational psychology, 76(Pt 2), 351-367. doi:10.1348/000709905X39170

Hatcher, P. J., Hulme, C., Miles, J. N. V., Carroll, J. M., Hatcher, J., Gibbs, S., … Snowling, M. J. (2006). Efficacy of small group reading intervention for beginning readers with reading-delay: a randomised controlled trial. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 47(8), 820–827. doi:10.1111/j.1469-7610.2005.01559.x

Ripoll, J. C., & Aguado, G. (2013). Reading Comprehension Improvement for Spanish Students: A Meta-Analysis // La mejora de la comprensión lectora en español: Un meta-análisis. Revista de Psicodidáctica / Journal of Psychodidactics, 0(0). Recuperado a partir de

Verbal Fluency: A measure of intelligence

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Tests of verbal ability have been used by many years (Thurstone, 1938; Jones-Gotman & Milner, 1977). On this test, subject is presented with a category (e.g.words beginning with ‘M’, or names of animals) and is asked to produce as many examples of these as possible within a given time of period.

Verbal fluency has demonstrated to be impaired in dysphasic patients, but also in patients with lesions on the left (Benton, 1968) and right frontal lobe (Pendleton et al., 1982).

Naming performance has been used to test disabilities in the population. Longitudinal studies show that naming performance changes across the life span, declining specially in oldest subjects (Au et al., 1995), which reflects a breakdown in perceptual and semantic processes.

 One of the most usual tests for examining this ability is the Boston Naming Test (BNT) and the Parietal Lobe Battery. The BNT enjoys and reach database in different countries and different pathologies, as well as normative data across age range.

One important point in fluency tasks is the category of the word. When we test people with mild dementia they perform better naming animals than naming words with specified letter on the beginning, which means that category structure influences retrieval processes (Rosen, 1980).

To test naming fluency is important to control the age of the participants. An effect of aging is observed specially after forty years age and a decline of the verbal ability after the sixties (Rodriguez-Aranda & Martinussen, 2006).

Naming ability is mediated by different strategies. When we compare two measures of verbal fluency, initial letter versus excluded letter (words produced not containing a designated letter), we found that both fluency tasks rely on verbal ability and articulation speed. Excluded letter fluency performance rely more on speak and executive function (Hughes & Bryan, 2002).

Verbal fluency is also a measure of verbal intelligence. In the study of Miller (Miller, 1984), they compared verbal fluency in two groups of patients, one with focal lesions and another with dementia. They use regression to predict fluency from an index of verbal intelligence. When verbal intelligence was taking into account using regression equation, they found that impaired fluency is a specific phenomenon following frontal lesions and not a consequence of intellectual deterioration in dementia.

The most used test of verbal fluency is the FAS. It consists on a task in which the participant has one minute to generate words beginning with each letter ‘F’, ‘A’, ‘S’ (phonemic fluency) and  animal names (semantic fluency). The FAS has been shown to be more sensitive to the effects of education than age: the number of words increases as the level of education increase, while remains constant until age 60  (Tombaugh, Kozak, & Rees, 1999). Other studies have shown that level of education but not age or gender significantly influence verbal fluency (Mathuranath et al., 2003).

Neural correlates of fluency task

Letter and category fluency tasks are associated with frontal and temporal lobe. Letter fluency presents greater activation in left pre-central and inferior frontal gyrus, while category fluency presents greater activation in left middle frontal gyrus and left fusiform gyrus.

Location and cortical activity can be modulated by varying verbal fluency task demands. Right hemisphere activation is greater during automatic speech in response to over-learned category while left hemisphere activation is greater in letter fluency tasks when demands are on executive function (Birn et al., 2010). Furthermore, the uncinate fasciculus shows positive correlation with Boston Naming Test (Catani et al., 2013).

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Au, R., Joung, P., Nicholas, M., Obler, L. K., Kass, R., & Albert, M. L. (1995). Naming ability across the adult life span. Aging, Neuropsychology, and Cognition, 2(4), 300-311. doi:10.1080/13825589508256605

Benton, A. L. (1968). Differential behavioral effects in frontal lobe disease. Neuropsychologia, 6, 5360.

Birn, R. M., Kenworthy, L., Case, L., Caravella, R., Jones, T. B., Bandettini, P. A., & Martin, A. (2010). Neural systems supporting lexical search guided by letter and semantic category cues: A self-paced overt response fMRI study of verbal fluency. NeuroImage, 49(1), 1099-1107. doi:10.1016/j.neuroimage.2009.07.036

Catani, M., Mesulam, M. M., Jakobsen, E., Malik, F., Martersteck, A., Wieneke, C.,… Rogalski, E. (2013). A novel frontal pathway underlies verbal fluency in primary progressive aphasia. Brain, 136(8), 2619-2628. doi:10.1093/brain/awt163

Hughes, D. L., & Bryan, J. (2002). Adult Age Differences in Strategy Use During Verbal Fluency Performance. Journal of Clinical and Experimental Neuropsychology, 24(5), 642-654. doi:10.1076/jcen.24.5.642.1002

Jones-Gotman, M. & Milner, B. (1977). Design fluency: The invention of nonsense drawings after focal cortical lesions. Neuropsychologia, 15, 653-674.

Mathuranath, P. S., George, A., Cherian, P. J., Alexander, A., Sarma, S. G., & Sarma, P. S. (2003). Effects of Age, Education and Gender on Verbal Fluency. Journal of Clinical and Experimental Neuropsychology, 25(8), 1057-1064. doi:10.1076/jcen.25.8.1057.16736

Miller, E. (1984). Verbal fluency as a function of a measure of verbal intelligence and in relation to different types of cerebral pathology. British Journal of Clinical Psychology, 23(1), 53–57. doi:10.1111/j.2044-8260.1984.tb00626.x

Pendleton, M. G., Heaton. R. K.. Lehman, R. A. W. & Hulihan, D. (1982). Diagnostic utility of  the Thurstone word fluency test in neuropsychological evaluation. Journal of Clinical Neuropsychology, 4, 307-3 17.

Rodriguez-Aranda, C., & Martinussen, M. (2006). Age-Related Differences in Performance of Phonemic Verbal Fluency Measured by Controlled Oral Word Association Task (COWAT): A Meta-Analytic Study. Developmental Neuropsychology, 30(2), 697-717. doi:10.1207/s15326942dn3002_3

Rosen, W. G. (1980). Verbal fluency in aging and dementia. Journal of Clinical Neuropsychology, 2(2), 135-146. doi:10.1080/01688638008403788

Thurstone. L. L. (1938). Primary Mental Abilities. Chicago: Chicago University Press

Tombaugh, T. N., Kozak, J., & Rees, L. (1999). Normative Data Stratified by Age and Education for Two Measures of Verbal Fluency: FAS and Animal Naming. Archives of Clinical Neuropsychology, 14(2), 167-177. doi:10.1016/S0887-6177(97)00095-4