Differences in Learning Volitional (Manual) and Non-Volitional (Posture) Aspects of a Complex Motor Skill in Young Adult Dyslexic and Skilled Readers

Itamar Sela, Avi Karni

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The 'Cerebellar Deficit Theory' of developmental dyslexia proposes that a subtle developmental cerebellar dysfunction leads to deficits in attaining 'automatic' procedures and therefore manifests as subtle motor impairments (e.g., balance control, motor skill learning) in addition to the reading and phonological difficulties. A more recent version of the theory suggests a core deficit in motor skill acquisition. This study was undertaken to compare the time-course and the nature of practice-related changes in volitional (manual) and non-volitional (posture) motor performance in dyslexic and typical readers while learning a new movement sequence. Seventeen dyslexic and 26 skilled young adult readers underwent a three-session training program in which they practiced a novel sequence of manual movements while standing in a quiet stance position. Both groups exhibited robust and well-retained gains in speed, with no loss of accuracy, on the volitional, manual, aspects of the task, with a time-course characteristic of procedural learning. However, the dyslexic readers exhibited a pervasive slowness in the initiation of volitional performance. In addition, while typical readers showed clear and well-retained task-related adaptation of the balance and posture control system, the dyslexic readers had significantly larger sway and variance of sway throughout the three sessions and were less efficient in adapting the posture control system to support the acquisition of the novel movement sequence. These results support the notion of a non-language-related deficit in developmental dyslexia, one related to the recruitment of motor systems for effective task performance rather than to a general motor learning disability.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere43488
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number9
StatePublished - 26 Sep 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology


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