The Relation between Physiological Parameters and Colour Modifications in Text Background and Overlay during Reading in Children with and without Dyslexia

Brain Sci. 2021 Apr 25;11(5):539. doi: 10.3390/brainsci11050539.


Reading is one of the essential processes during the maturation of an individual. It is estimated that 5-10% of school-age children are affected by dyslexia, the reading disorder characterised by difficulties in the accuracy or fluency of word recognition. There are many studies which have reported that coloured overlays and background could improve the reading process, especially in children with reading disorders. As dyslexia has neurobiological origins, the aim of the present research was to understand the relationship between physiological parameters and colour modifications in the text and background during reading in children with and without dyslexia. We have measured differences in electroencephalography (EEG), heart rate variability (HRV), electrodermal activities (EDA) and eye movements of the 36 school-age (from 8 to 12 years old) children (18 with dyslexia and 18 of control group) during the reading task in 13 combinations of background and overlay colours. Our findings showed that the dyslexic children have longer reading duration, fixation count, fixation duration average, fixation duration total, and longer saccade count, saccade duration total, and saccade duration average while reading on white and coloured background/overlay. It was found that the turquoise background, turquoise overlay, and yellow background colours are beneficial for dyslexic readers, as they achieved the shortest time duration of the reading tasks when these colours were used. Additionally, dyslexic children have higher values of beta (15-40 Hz) and the broadband EEG (0.5-40 Hz) power while reading in one particular colour (purple), as well as increasing theta range power while reading with the purple overlay. We have observed no significant differences between HRV parameters on white colour, except for single colours (purple, turquoise overlay, and yellow overlay) where the control group showed higher values for mean HR, while dyslexic children scored higher with mean RR. Regarding EDA measure, we found systematically lower values in children with dyslexia in comparison to the control group. Based on the present results, we can conclude that both pastel and intense background/overlays are beneficial for reading of both groups and all sensor modalities could be used to better understand the neurophysiological origins in dyslexic children.

Keywords: ECG; EDA; EEG; background colour; children; dyslexia; eye tracking; overlay colour; physiological parameters; reading; sensors; text colour.