The Impact of a Neurofeedback Program on Primary Grade Reading Scores of Children with Lead Poisoning
Ralph Neil Spezio, University of Rochester, United States
University of Rochester . Awarded
Children with dyslexia and/or central auditory processing disorder (CAPD) respond positively to neurofeedback computer-based training (NFB-CBT) that is designed to stimulate brain plasticity. The deficits which occur in children due to CAPD and dyslexia are similar to the deficits that occur in children who are lead poisoned. However, no studies have been done on the efficacy of NFB-CBT on children with reading difficulty and a history of elevated blood-lead levels. This study analyzes the effect of a NFB-CBT program on the reading growth, as measured by New York State English/Language Arts assessment (NYS-ELA).
I utilized a retrospective cohort design and joined databases from an urban school district (Developmental Reading Assessment (DRA) and English Language Arts (ELA) reading test scores) and a county health department (blood-lead levels). I selected children who had blood-lead levels above 10µg/dL at ages 1-3 years. The children were dichotomized into two groups on whether they received Fast ForWord, a NFB-CBT intervention. Children were matched on grade, age, blood-lead levels, and baseline DRA score. Key covariates were introduced into ANCOVA to determine the independent association between Fast ForWord dispensation and ELA score.
I found that the Fast ForWord children had lower or comparable levels of reading growth than the comparison group as measured by New York State ELA examinations. The findings of this research are inconclusive and indicate that it may be either a true null or a false null study.
These findings may indicate a true null study in that it is possible that the NFB-CBT intervention was administered at an age past some therapeutic window for a lead damaged brain, or was not administered long enough to have the desired effect in regard to lead poisoned children.
It is also possible that these results indicate a false null study because of improper or inadequate dosing of the intervention, improper measurement of the outcome, and/or hidden methodological bias. For example, I speculate that a methodological bias may have occurred by the unintended filtering out of less severely affected children by teachers and the subsequent referral of children with the most severe reading deficits to receive Fast ForWord. I also discuss a possible improper or inadequate dosing of the NFB-CBT intervention and possible improper measurement of the outcome.
This intervention would best be assessed by a randomized trial and not a retrospective cohort design. Too many potential confounders exist to conduct a valid cohort study, especially in the educational setting.
Spezio, R.N. The Impact of a Neurofeedback Program on Primary Grade Reading Scores of Children with Lead Poisoning. Ph.D. thesis, University of Rochester.
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