Poor spellers with good phonetic skills are more often right-handed

To here but not to sea: spelling difficulties and handedness explored

Milan, Italy, May 29, 2008 - Children who can read and have good phonetic skills - the ability to recognize the individual sounds within words – may still be poor spellers. In a paper published in the May 2008 issue of Cortex, Elizabeth Eglinton and Marian Annett, at the School of Psychology of Leicester, UK, show that this subgroup of poor spellers is more likely to be right-handed than other poor spellers.

The three-year study was carried out in a cohort of children drawn from normal schools. The children attended nine different schools regarded as representative of the local education authority, including both town and country districts. In the first year of study all children in the 9-10 year age group were screened for laterality, literacy and cognitive abilities using short group tests (hand skill, spelling, nonword spelling, drawing shapes and homophonic word discrimination). Tests requiring individual examination, including reading, were given in Year 2. In the end 414 children were available for the spelling analyses in Year 1, of whom 324 were tested further in Year 2.

The results of the study show that poor spellers with good phonetic equivalent spelling errors (GFEs) included fewer left-handers (2.4%) than poor spellers without GFEs (24.4%). Differences for hand skill were as predicted.

“These findings support the right shift theory of handedness and cerebral dominance, which predicts that dyslexics with good phonology would be strongly right-handed” says Marian Annett, corresponding author of the paper.

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Notes to Editors:
The article is “Good phonetic errors in poor spellers are associated with right-handedness and possible weak utilization of visuospatial abilities” by Elizabeth Eglinton and Marian Annett, and it appears in Cortex, Volume 44, Issue 6, 2008, pp 737-745, published by Elsevier Masson, in Italy.

Full text of the article featured above is available upon request. Contact v.brancolini@elsevier.com to obtain a copy. To schedule an interview contact Dr. Marian Annett, School of Psychology, University of Leicester, UK. Email: doc@le.ac.uk

About Cortex
Cortex is an international journal devoted to the study of cognition and of the relationship between the nervous system and mental processes, particularly as these are reflected in the behaviour of patients with acquired brain lesions, normal volunteers, children with typical and atypical development, and in the activation of brain regions and systems as recorded by functional neuroimaging techniques. It was founded in 1964 by Ennio De Renzi. The Editor in-chief of Cortex is Sergio Della Sala, Professor of Human Cognitive Neuroscience at the University of Edinburgh. Fax: 0131 6513230, e-mail: cortex@ed.ac.uk. Cortex is available online at http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/journal/00109452

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Media Contact:
Valeria Brancolini
Elsevier Masson, Italy
+39 02 88184 260