PATH to Reading is a patented computer game designed to improve reading, attention, and memory by training specific parts of the brain that support these functions. PATH stands for Perception Attention Therapy and was created by neurobiologist Dr. Teri Lawton, who experienced its effects firsthand while developing her PhD thesis. Following a severe concussion at age 25, Dr. Lawton used PATH’s visual exercises to help re-learn how to walk and talk within months—and 13 years faster than doctors predicted for her recovery. According to the PATH to Reading website, “Studies show PATH therapy to be a rapid and effective means for treating children with a wide spectrum of reading and attention difficulties, from ordinary poor reading to Dyslexia, Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD and ADHD) and Autism” and the following are typically expected user outcomes: after 5 sessions, 100% average increase in reading speed; after 10 sessions, 200% average increase in reading speed; after 30 sessions, 400-1000% average increase in reading speed (“PATH to Reading,” 2019). Because of its focus on improving visual and cognitive skills, the program is intended for users looking to achieve gains in grade-level reading skills, fluency, comprehension, spelling, pronunciation, attention, and both visual and auditory working memory.
Dr. Lawton has studied visual perception for more than 45 years. Based on her research, underdevelopment in visual pathways—the reduced ability to detect motion, specifically in the retina and in the brain—is causal in dyslexia and creates difficulty in identifying the correct sequence of letters in a word from the sea of visual features on a page. This creates challenge in learning how to read, and in developing language and reasoning. PATH’s visual training, which includes practicing left-right eye movements and identifying patterns on backgrounds, strengthens and improves the eye-brain connection and the function of the visual pathways, enabling readers to correctly identify letter and sequences and improve reading and comprehension.
Students engage in the sessions once a day for five minutes or for 10-15-minutes two to three times per week for 12-16 weeks. Literacy-specific tasks should follow PATH activities. Research on the PATH patented program has shown improvements in reading, attention, and working memory skills in children. PATH improves reading skills by training the brain to discriminate left-right movement of faint, striped, grayscale patterns that move on varied backgrounds. The patterns are designed to activate motion sensitive cells at both early (retinal) and later (cortical) processing levels. PATH uses automatic feedback and recalibration to adjust the challenges to each student’s ability through a game-like platform. The program gives students animated encouragement when doing a task correctly and when a more complex level has been completed. It also provides visual feedback on how students are progressing. A dashboard for teachers generates individual data and summary files on each student throughout the intervention.
A licensed therapist will train licensee educators (or clinicians) on how to administer the cognitive training program, and students can complete the sessions independently. Home use is also available. Individuals administering PATH need to complete PATH training with staff at Perception Dynamics Institute, which is included in the license fee. The package also comes with program and measuring/ diagnostic tools.
KEY STUDIES SUMMARY:
A study including 42 second and third graders who used PATH for 30 minutes, twice a week for 12 weeks, found significant improvement in typically developing and dyslexic students in the following measures: Dyslexia Determination Test, the Comprehensive Test of Phonological Processing (CTOPP), Cognitive Assessment Systems test of Expressive Attention (Stroop: color-word interference), Test of Information Processing Skills (TIPS- working memory), Computer-based Reading Speed Assessment, and Contrast Sensitivity (Timing Diagnosis). (Lawton, T. & Shelley-Tremblay, J. (2017). Training on movement figure-ground discrimination remediates low-level visual timing deficits in the dorsal stream, improving high-level cognitive functioning, including attention, reading fluency, and working memory. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 11, 236.) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28555097
A study of 58 second graders with dyslexia comparing interventions using visual timing and auditory timing found those who used PATH for 20 minutes, three days a week for 20 weeks found significantly improved attention, reading fluency, both speed and comprehension, phonological processing, and both auditory and visual working memory relative to controls who did linguistic training, whereas the auditory timing training for 30 minutes 5 days a week for 20 weeks to improve phonological processing did not improve these skills significantly more than was found for controls. In addition, the PATH visual timing training required half the time of the auditory timing training. (Lawton, T. (2016) Improving dorsal stream function in dyslexics by training figure/ground motion discrimination improves attention, reading fluency, and working memory. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 10, 397. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2016.00397) https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fnhum.2016.00397/full#h1
OTHER RESEARCH AVAILABLE
Lawton, T. (2019). Increasing visual timing by movement discrimination exercises improves reading fluency, attention span, and memory retention in dyslexics. Neuro Neurosurg, 2, 1-8. doi: 10.15761/NNS.1000118
Lawton, T. and Huang, M. (2019). Dynamic cognitive remediation for a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) significantly improves attention, working memory, processing speed, and reading fluency. Restorative Neurology and Neuroscience, 37, 71-86. doi: 10.3233/RNN-180856
Lawton, T. (2011) Improving magnocellular function in the dorsal stream remediates reading deficits.
Optometry Vision Development 42(3), 142-154. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/265812611_Improving_Magnocellular_Function_in_the_Dorsal_Stream_Remediates_Reading_Deficits
Lawton, T. (2007). Training direction discrimination sensitivity remediates a wide spectrum of reading skills. Optometry and Vision Development, 38(1), 37-51. https://psycnet.apa.org/record/2007-07097-004