To see but not to read; the magnocellular theory of dyslexia

Trends Neurosci. 1997 Apr;20(4):147-52. doi: 10.1016/s0166-2236(96)01005-3.


Developmental dyslexics often complain that small letters appear to blur and move around when they are trying to read. Anatomical, electrophysiological, psychophysical and brain-imaging studies have all contributed to elucidating the functional organization of these and other visual confusions. They emerge not from damage to a single visual relay but from abnormalities of the magnocellular component of the visual system, which is specialized for processing fast temporal information. The m-stream culminates in the posterior parietal cortex, which plays an important role in guiding visual attention. The evidence is consistent with an increasingly sophisticated account of dyslexia that does not single out either phonological, or visual or motor deficits. Rather, temporal processing in all three systems seems to be impaired. Dyslexics may be unable to process fast incoming sensory information adequately in any domain.

MeSH terms

  • Attention / physiology
  • Child
  • Dyslexia / physiopathology*
  • Eye Movements / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Reading