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Cognitive event-related potentials

These are a series of measurements obtained when an EEG machine, connected to a special computer, records electrical responses in the brain when specific tasks are undertaken. For example, when asked to listen for a sound, a child must allocate attention, and an event-related potential recorded when the child attends to the sound will contain elements that reflect the process of deployment of attentional capacity that takes place in the brain.

When children with certain types of specific learning difficulty concentrate intently on a sound, they do not generate the same strong waves that normal children do. This can be detected by measuring their cognitive event-related potentials.

The usefulness of this test is that it provides objective evidence of certain brain immaturities and inefficiencies. It cannot be used in isolation, but forms part of the information that is required to determine the nature of a child’s learning difficulties.

Skull X-ray

Skull X-rays will generally not show any abnormality in a child with a learning difficulty and are not routinely done on such children. They should only be performed if the paediatrician suspects one of the rare conditions associated with learning difficulties where there may be abnormal findings on the skull X-ray.

Computerized axial tomography (CAT scan) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI scan)

Both of these tests provide a detailed, computerized picture of the structure of the brain. The CAT scan picture is formed with the use of X-rays, while the MRI scan uses magnetic fields. Neither test will show an abnormality in the vast majority of children with learning difficulties. They are only performed if the paediatrician has reason to suspect that one of a group of uncommon conditions may be present.

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