“Dyslexia, Learning Differently, and Innovation” | Fumiko Hoeft | TEDxSausalito
Articles,  Blog

“Dyslexia, Learning Differently, and Innovation” | Fumiko Hoeft | TEDxSausalito

Translator: Gabriella Patricola
Reviewer: Carole Mrad Alright. So, today I’ll talk about
the Yin-Yang of dyslexia and creativity, and the relationship between these two,
from the neuroscientific perspective. But I want to start with a story, the story of Jack Horner,
a boy who struggled in school. He graduated from high school
with a D-minus average and he failed college seven times. He had a GPA 0.06, and he never graduated. He was severely dyslexic. How is he like now? He is one of the most influential
paleontologists of all time. He is a [technical] advisor
of Jurassic Park movies, and also he is a winner
of the MacArthur Genius Award. So, what does this tell us? It tells us first that he is remarkably
resilient and perseverant. And also, it tells us
that he is probably extremely creative. It also teaches us three possibilities
of why there might be a link between dyslexia and creativity. 1) it could be that it is
just a sheer coincidence, that he was a lucky person that happened
to be creative and had dyslexia; 2) it could be that his long
repeated failure of having dyslexia has led to this ultimate success; 3) it might be that there is
a direct and causal link between dyslexia and creativity. So, the first evidence
that I want to present, is a research study
by Professor Julie Logan from the Cass Business School in London. And what she has found in her survey, is that over a third of the entrepreneurs had dyslexic traits. And this is particularly striking
given that the prevalence of dyslexia is about 5-10% in the general population. So, it seems like, statistically, there is a relationship
between dyslexia and innovators. An example that we saw from Jack Horner; it could be Chuck Schwab, it could be Richard Branson. So there are a lot of these examples. And I want to call this
the Yin-Yang of dyslexia. The Yin-Yang because the relationship between dyslexia and increased
incidence in entrepreneurs is not that obvious at first sight. But also, at the same time, the relationship
between dyslexia and creativity may have complementary relationships. So we’ll take a look at this next. The second evidence
that we want to address is that individuals with dyslexia
may have a unique brain organization. When we typically look
at damaged or dysfunctional brains, – in this case the example
here is the reading network – typically what happens
is that the region surrounding it, or the opposite hemisphere, – in this case it might be
the right hemisphere – will show some compensation. And it might take over
or rescue the function that the dysfunctional brain was carrying. For example, a good example
is the stroke patient. And also what we might see
is that skills that these regions host, in the orange region,
the compensatory regions, might actually be enhanced. And we might see this case
in dementia patients; we often see enhanced creativity. So, we might think
that individuals with dyslexia, also that there might be some kind
of enhanced performance going on, and this is exactly what we see. In our study, we looked at… we had individuals who looked
at these impossible figures, and they had to judge whether
they were possible and impossible figures. And while there is large
individual variability, we see this strong correlation between reading abilities
and visual-spatial abilities. In other words, the poorer
the performance in reading, or more dyslexic you were, the higher performance
in visual-spatial abilities. And interestingly, we saw
a parallel pattern in brain activation patterns as well. So we see this Yin-Yang relationship between reading
and visual-spatial abilities, in behavior as well as brain patterns. This is also consistent with evolutionary
advantage hypothesis of dyslexia, which was proposed over 30 years ago
by a neurologist called Norman Geschwind. He speculated that dyslexic individuals
have remarkable abilities, despite difficulties in reading. And it’s also interesting that reading is such a critical skill
in the modern society, but yet the dyslexics
hadn’t died out in human evolution. So there must be some evolutionary
advantage of having dyslexia. So now new emerging technologies, such as the one we use,
will allow us to address and examine the relationship
between dyslexia and creativity. So to conclude: is dyslexia
a reading curse or a creative blessing? Until more research is done,
we don’t have an exact answer. But based on the stories
of Jake Horner, and others, as well as the recent
neuroimaging findings, we believe that the answer
is “Yes” to both. Thank you very much. (Applause)


  • Different Is Beauty

    I don't write in front people and I have 4 learning disabilities I am terrified to right in front of people i'll try to remember stuff my memory is so bad in such a way that I cannot remember how to respond to people when they ask me things I have dyscalculia, dyslexia, dysgraphia attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and this things make my life hell I can't finish school because of the fear and anxiety I get from school I'm going to school now but on the exams days I feel so stupid and so dumb not remembering anything or everything sounds great answer is terrifying because of the anxiety that I have I end up choosing things that I didn't want to choose them And I pray to God that I pass but sometime it doesn't come that way and it's so painful to know that I am really trying really really hard to study but is not reflecting on my grade is discouraging, anybody help me to to get through this? how do I get through the fear and which ways are best ways to study for someone like me ? And I hate when people say to me that I'm Genius oh I can be like a multibillionaire like other people with LD I just want it to do this because this is what I love is to have my master in OT and help others to figure out their life as well and give them the courage to get through it

  • jamie panchal

    thank for sharing your understanding , some of the info was coming across negative and there was a lot of jargon used to help you describe ideas . not easy to follow ! you also seemed nervous which effected your presentation style … which is a shame because i really wanted to watch and understand your ideas .
    just some ideas to help your grow . thank you

  • Luis von Xylander

    one of the biggest problems of dyslexia is mostly a side effect caused by discrimination. nothing makes you more "depressed" than that of being socially excluded and alone.

  • Melissa Ball

    Scientifically dyslexia has not been eliminated in an evolutionary standpoint. I agree… but providing the best interventions so these people make the best decisions and have the best direction due to high likelihood of negative effects.

  • Scott Tillman

    It's tiring to hear people say dyslexia is some kid of gift. It is no gift to someone who has it. And having these TEDx Talks telling dyslexics that they should aspire to be scientists is a criminal. Also, lying and saying people like Albert Einstein, Leonardo da Vinci, and Thomas Edison had dyslexia does more harm than good. They did not have any type of dyslexia.
    And why is it that when people lecture on dyslexia they never give examples of people with normal professions that have over come the difficulties of being dyslexia? These "talks" just sell people a pipe dream, without giving any real life tools or expectations on how to deal with being dyslexic. You know it's nice to be creative, but without knowing how to read, write, or have basic math skills, there isn't much you can do with it. Not to mention having a poor working memory and difficulty communicating verbally.

  • Sabahat Khan

    I'm dyslexic and it's depressing. ..I'm worried what am I going to do in my college. .I can't spell can't read or comprehen and my English it's horibble. .

  • King Jah Eazie

    I wish we changed or add the laws in America and all around the world so all the adults with dyslexia would get assistive technology help in every day life with reading and writing. We should the future for kids and adults alike.

  • John Hewison

    I am Dyslexic with a degree in Design and Innovation. I only discovered I was Dyslexic 3/4 of the way into my Degree. My visual spatial ability was almost off the scale in the test conducted by the education psychologist who diagnosed me.

  • Patricia Kolodney

    I have dyslexia and went to private schools from kindergarten thru college. I also got 2 masters degrees in mid life.
    I knew i thought differently and worked hard in reading and spelling. I majored in literature and history as an undergraduate and psychology in graduate school. I've also studied integrative medicine as it relates to neuroscience and psychology. I hope anyone who has dyslexia is able to break through shame and find a way to fulfill their dreams. It's important to ask for help and seek information which helps you along your life path.

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