In short, what is your research project about? What are you researching and why?
The main goal of the DYSGEBRA (Dyslexia: genes, brain functions, interventions) project is to unravel the mystery of dyslexia to a degree where we will be able to develop methods for minimising the negative consequences of even the most severe forms of dyslexia. Although we know that genes and brain functions play a part in dyslexia, we do not know enough about the “bottlenecks” in brain functions caused by atypical genes, which are still at least partly unknown and thus under study. Also, we know that effective training of connections between spoken and written language (using GraphoGame technology) can help most children, but we are not yet able to provide adequate support to children with problems faced by the lowest percentiles of learners.
We expect that the results of this study will enable the further development of our intervention methods, the effectiveness of which we aim to prove as the final step of the study. An important component in this development work is big-data analysis, which utilises the game log files of hundreds of thousands of Finnish GraphoGame users. We aim to find subgroups of children showing particularly severe difficulties in learning and analyse their learning process in order to develop more effective adaptation procedures.
There is much talk about multi-, trans- and interdisciplinarity nowadays. Are these merely trendy buzzwords for scientific collaboration, or do they serve an instrumental purpose in your project?
We aim to meet the goals of this study by interdisciplinary collaboration involving top experts in genetic research, brain research, neuropsychology, learning research, statistics and information technology.
Research into personalised health involves an integrative “from-research-to-practice” mindset. Where do you place your own research in this context? Does your project have partners that are not research-related partners?
Immediately after discovering solutions, we will apply them to practice by delivering them to all Finnish children via the GraphoGame service (used by thousands of children daily), and at a later stage, to the hundreds of millions of children who are unable to achieve adequate reading skills because of poor reading instruction. The website info.graphogame.com provides more information of our global work involving studies in more than 30 countries.
A big fuss over nothing, or a major change in practices? In your estimation, how and when will the effects of the promotion of personalised health be evident in the healthcare system?
Already in its current form, GraphoGame adapts individually to each player’s skill level. However, after we have been able to identify the final bottlenecks (e.g. specific genetic profile or atypicality in brain functions) hindering learning, we will be able to improve the effectiveness of the adaptation procedures.
We expect the effects of this study to spread outside Finland. According to our principles, the new training methods are first adjusted to each language/orthography and culture, and experimental studies are then conducted to ensure their functionality and effectiveness in each country. The knowledge acquired in this study will be added to the knowledge we have already gained, for example, in Africa, where in many countries GraphoGame research and application to practice is almost at the same stage as in Finland. In Finland, the Ministry of Education, Science and Culture has supported the delivery of the GraphoGame service to all those who need support in learning to read regardless of where in Finland they live. The present study will refine this service so that also children with the most severe problems will receive effective individual support.