BACKGROUND: About 10% of the western population suffers from a specific disability in the acquisition of reading and writing skills, known as developmental dyslexia (DD). Even though DD starts in childhood it frequently continuous throughout lifetime. Impaired processing of acoustic features at the phonematic scale based on dysfunctional auditory temporal resolution is considered as one core deficit underlying DD. Recently, the efficacy of transcranial electrical stimulation (tES) to modulate auditory temporal resolution and phoneme processing in healthy individuals has been demonstrated.
OBJECTIVE: The present work aims to investigate online effects of tES on phoneme processing in individuals with DD.
METHOD: Using an established phoneme-categorization task, we assessed the immediate behavioral and electrophysiological effects of transcranial alternating current stimulation (tACS) and transcranial random noise stimulation (tRNS) over bilateral auditory cortex in children and adolescents with DD (study 1) and adults with DD (study 2) on auditory phoneme processing acuity.
RESULTS: Our data revealed that tACS improved phoneme categorization in children and adolescents with DD, an effect that was paralleled by an increase in evoked brain response patterns representing low-level sensory processing. In the adult sample we replicated these findings and additionally showed a more pronounced impact of tRNS on phoneme-categorization acuity.
CONCLUSION: These results provide compelling evidence for the potential of both tACS and tRNS to increase temporal precision of the auditory system in DD and suggest transcranial electrical stimulation as potential intervention in DD to foster the effect of standard phonology-based training.