Closing children’s eyes and encouraging them to “see” letters with other sensory senses speeds up the literacy process. Learning is even more effective and sustainable when you fall asleep after activities.
The results come from a study by a group of researchers associated with the Laboratory for Memory, Sleep, and Dreams, UFRN (Federal University of Rio Grande do Norte) and Cepid Neuromat (Neuromathematics Research Center). The conclusions are contained in an article published this Thursday (17) in the journal Current Biology.
The study, co-authored by neuroscientist Sidarta Ribeiro, conducted multisensory training in children aged 5 to 7 at a school in Natal, capital of Rio Grande do Norte, to try to resolve a visual confusion who have favourited the brain on the internet causes letter identification and interferes with the literacy process.
With just three weeks of activities, the training was able to zero the number of mistakes kids make early in literacy and double their reading speed. In the case of students who were tested for two hours of sleep after training, the knowledge they had acquired was retained after four months.
Previous research has shown that a brain mechanism called mirror invariance prevents the distinction between mirror images. Although the eyes view the images as different, the brain processes them as the same.
This visual confusion hinders literacy as the child cannot distinguish mirrored letters such as deb or p and q. The difficulty in differentiating them extends to other letters as well, so it is common at this age for some of them to be spelled the other way around, as if e.g.
“It is a behavior of the brain that has been active for 25 million years and does not interfere with other daily tasks, but does interfere with literacy. It is normal for children to have this difficulty at some point, but it will be corrected as they learn to read and write, ”explains Ribeiro, deputy director of the Instituto do Cerebro at UFRN.
According to the study, visual differentiation improves as reading fluency increases. Process that takes 2 to 3 years to consolidate. However, the researchers found that stimulation with other senses can speed up this ability. With the training developed, the children learned to distinguish the letters with just three weeks of activity.
The study was conducted with 102 children at a Christmas school who were randomly assigned to four groups – two of them controlled, one who received multisensory training only, and one who received the training and was then able to sleep.
By training daily activities of 30 minutes for three weeks, it was checked that it was possible to clear the visual confusion. The training consisted of selling the children and presenting them the mirrored letters with other stimuli.
Examples include drawing letters on students’ palms and speaking out loud the noises they are making. In this way, other areas of the brain were stimulated to understand the difference between letters previously processed by the visual system as being the same.
“The training we developed multiplied the maps between the brain systems to compensate for these differences. The child stops relying only on the visual system, right where there is confusion. With different stimuli, she gains new perceptions about letters, ”says the psychiatrist Felipe Pegado.
After the three weeks, the children who had received the training erased the mistakes of letter confusion they had previously made, while their peers who were in the group without intervention continued with the same mistake and in the same initial ratio 75% of the time had to make the difference.
In addition to the multisensory training, the researchers also separated a group of children so they could sleep right after training. Other laboratory tests had already shown that taking a nap at school helps consolidate learning.
“During sleep there are processes that help the brain to remember better, to forget what is not important, and to restructure memories. When sleep is shortly after significant learning, there is less interference and the brain can better choose what to store, ”says Ribeiro.
The research found that four months after the end of the training, the children who had the sleep time continued their study with virtually no error in distinguishing the letters. However, those who just exercised without napping later showed mistakes again about 20% of the time – even among those who weren’t exercised.
“We found that the training works because the visual discrimination against the children is perfect and in a very short time. They unlearn later only without sleeping. Without sleep, learning is short-lived, ”says Ribeiro.
For the researchers, the results make important contributions to the literacy process, a phase that is seen as crucial for children’s journeys to school. In addition to providing quick and effective results, the interventions are simple and can be used in any school.
“This exchange that the child makes disrupts learning and can create resistance at the beginning of school life. The student has difficulty, reads more slowly, does not understand what he is reading, and loses interest. The intervention can help to resolve this confusion in the brain more quickly, ”says Ana Raquel Torres, researcher and first author of the work.