Does the Brain Compensate for Dyslexia, Autism and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder?

By Totesquatre ; cropped by Ravit (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commo

According to a newly published report by Georgetown University, the brains of people with the certain neurodevelopment disorders appear to compensate for the dysfunction by relying on a single system in the brain known as the ‘declarative memory.’ Researchers studied people with autism spectrum disorder, language impairment, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and dyslexia and Tourette syndrome, proposed a hypothesis based on decades of research.

What is Declarative Memory?

Explicit or declarative memory is one of the two types of long-term memory capabilities of the human brain. These are the memories an individual can recall ‘consciously’ or ‘declare.’ These memories involve recalling events and facts and is an important part of what is stored within a person’s mind. Declarative memory is something that can be retrieved at any point in time.

The Study

The results of the study done by Georgetown University Medical Center was posted in the April 2015 issue of Neuroscience and Behavioral Reviews.
The anticipated brain benefit allows individuals who have autism to learn the scripts needed for navigating social situations, it helps those with Tourette’s syndrome or Obsessive Compulsive Disorder control tics and compulsive behavioral urges. It also provides ideas to help these individuals overcome reading, language and comprehension difficulties and aids those with Specific Language

Impairment and dyslexia in learning to read.
Michael Ullman, PhD, the professor of neuroscience at Georgetown and the director of Brain and Language Laboratory states, “There are multiple learning and memory systems in the brain, but declarative memory is the superstar. It is extremely flexible, in that it can learn just about anything. Therefore it can learn all kinds of compensatory strategies, and can even take over for impaired systems.”

Ullman went on to further state, “Nevertheless, in most circumstances, declarative memory won’t do as good a job as these systems normally do, which is an important reason why individuals with the disorders generally still have noticeable problems despite the compensation.”

Knowing people with these types of disorders can depend on declarative memory, leads to further understanding on how to improve the diagnosis and treatment of these conditions. It could lead to improvements in different ways. First, designing treatments that rely on declarative memory, or that increase learning in this system could additionally increase compensation.

Ullman states compensation by declarative memory may also help researchers to better explain an observation that has long been eluding medical experts-the fact that these disorders are more commonly diagnosed in males than females. He says “Studies suggest that girls and women are better than boys and men, on average, in their use of declarative memory. Therefore, females are likely to compensate more successfully than males, even to the point of compensating themselves out of diagnosis more often than males.”

In Conclusion

Declarative memory could also possibly compensate for dysfunctions due to other disorders, including attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, adult onset aphasia or Parkinson’s disease.

The hypothesis of this study could have extremely powerful clinical implications for a wide variety of disorders and make a profound difference in the lives of countless numbers of people.

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