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Developmental dyslexia: a multi-sensory approach

The aim of the proposed project will be to investigate the multi-sensory integration of light and sound information, i.e., the combination of processing in the visual and auditory systems, in children and young adults with developmental dyslexia.

Developmental dyslexia is a Specific Learning Difficulty, the prevalence of which is estimated to be around 10%, thus forming a large minority group.  This group face daily struggles with reading that lead to a number of additional undesirable outcomes, for example, poor job prospects and reduced self-esteem.

While decades worth of research has proved successful in identifying different forms of dyslexia the underlining mechanisms giving rise to developmental dyslexia are still not fully understood.  In-order for appropriate learning support that effectively meets the educational needs of this population a deeper understanding of these underlying mechanisms is vital.  It has been hypothesised that developmental dyslexia is primarily due to a deficit in phonological awareness.  However, this hypothesis cannot fully explain all the observed forms of dyslexia and additional competing explanations based on visual or auditory deficits have been proposed, see Stein (2018) for an up to date review.  Recently, there has additionally been interest in the study of the multi-sensory integration of incoming sound and visual information to explain the basis of dyslexia, e.g., Sela (2014).

The aim of the proposed PhD will be to employ psychophysical (i.e., behavioural) and EEG methods to systematically investigate cross-modal integration in school age and young adult populations with developmental dyslexia and compare them with healthy aged matched controls.  We will determine if measured deficits in the early visual system, for example, in pathways that process colour or luminance (brightness) information along with auditory deficits and finally the integration (for example visual and auditory binding) of these sensory systems can explain some of the underlying problems observed in developmental dyslexia, e.g., reading difficulties, and hence in-turn assist with informing individual remediation programmes.


Stein J. (2018). What is Developmental Dyslexia? Brain sciences, 8(2), 26. doi:10.3390/brainsci8020026

Sela I (2014) Visual and auditory synchronization deficits among dyslexic readers as compared to non-impaired readers: a cross-correlation algorithm analysis. Front. Hum. Neurosci. 8:364. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2014.00364


How to apply

If you are interested in applying for the above PhD topic please follow the steps below:

  1. Contact the supervisor by email or phone to discuss your interest and find out if you woold be suitable. Supervisor details can be found on this topic page. The supervisor will guide you in developing the topic-specific research proposal, which will form part of your application.
  2. Click on the 'Apply here' button on this page and you will be taken to the relevant PhD course page, where you can apply using an online application.
  3. Complete the online application indicating your selected supervisor and include the research proposal for the topic you have selected.

Good luck!

This is a self funded topic

Brunel offers a number of funding options to research students that help cover the cost of their tuition fees, contribute to living expenses or both. See more information here: The UK Government is also offering Doctoral Student Loans for eligible students, and there is some funding available through the Research Councils. Many of our international students benefit from funding provided by their governments or employers. Brunel alumni enjoy tuition fee discounts of 15%.