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Could Dyslexia Affect Your Driving?

Have you ever wondered if your dyslexia could affect how you drive? A study with male participants investigated the possibility of dyslexia affecting the response times of drivers

A little bit of background about dyslexia…


Magnocells, which are large cells in the brain, are responsible for detecting different stimuli and movements. There is evidence that a deficit in the magnocellular system plays a big role in dyslexia, which involves difficulty in reading.


Another task that involves use of the magnocellular system is driving. Through reading road signs, and observing the environment one is driving in, the magnocellular system helps the brain interpret the situation and respond to it in a timely manner. A deficit in this system could lead to the inability to quickly respond and react to incoming information.


What was the experiment?


Researchers were interested in whether dyslexia would therefore have a big impact on driving and reaction times in comparison to a control (non-dyslexic) group.


In this experiment, male participants with and without dyslexia were then tested with a driving simulator in 2 conditions, as outlined below:


  1. Condition 1: Seven road signs appearing only in the center of the screen. Participants were told to press a button upon recognition of a road sign.
  2. Condition 2: Road signs appearing in six different areas of the screen in a random order. Participants were told to verbally respond with “now” upon recognition of a road sign.



What were the results of this study?


The results showed a significant difference in response times between the dyslexic group and control group, for both conditions. The most interesting was in condition 2, where the average response time of the control group was 0.19s faster than that of the dyslexic group. This is a huge difference, as it could translate to a slower reaction of 4.4m at 80km/h!


Does this mean people with dyslexia should not drive?


No! The point of the study was not to promote driving restrictions in people with dyslexia, but to study the implication of dyslexia in other activities other than reading. Further research is also needed in this field in order to be able to provide aid or other therapeutic services for dyslexic drivers.


Written by: Michelle Dolmaya, head researcher at Simone Friedman Speech-Language Services


Sigmundsson, H. (2005). Do visual processing deficite cause problem on response time task for dyslexics? Brain and Cognition, 58, 213-216.

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