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This is the second peer-reviewed article to demonstrate a significant positive impact of Interactive Metronome (IM) training on certain reading behaviors in a study with both experimental and control groups. The other study was one I was involved with (Taub, McGrew, & Keith, 2007; the abstract is presented below). You can access that complete 2007 manuscript at the Brain Clock blog.
In the new Ritter et al. study, IM was combined with reading and language interventions in school-age children that had language and reading impairments. This will be called the IM+language/reading intervention experimental group (IM+). Half of the subjects were randomly assigned to this experimental group (n=21). The other subjects (n=28) were randomly assigned to the same language/reading intervention, but without IM. So, this study is not a pure investigation of the isolated benefits of IM. Instead, it should be viewed as a study that investigated whether IM training could be a good “add on” component to other interventions focused on language and reading. The outcome domain assessed was various components of reading achievement.
Both groups demonstrated statistically significant gains in reading rate/fluency and comprehension. However, the IM+ demonstrated statistically significant stronger gains than the language/reading intervention only (control) group. This suggests that IM may be a useful adjunct intervention to be used with other more traditional academic related treatments directed at reading improvement.
Similar to the Taub et al. (2007) study, the IM+ students showed more improvement (over the control students) in reading fluency/rate. This consistent finding across both studies has been hypothesized to be due to either (a) improvements in speed of cognitive processing, which results in greater efficiency and automaticity in reading words, (b) greater controlled attention (focus) which improves working memory functioning, or (c) a combination of both.
The new study differed from the earlier study in that IM+ group displayed greater reading comprehension gains than the academic only intervention group. Taub et al. (2007) found no improvement in reading comprehension. Given that both groups received the same language and reading comprehension treatment, it is hypothesized that the addition of IM may be impacting some cognitive processes that facilitate reading comprehension. I agree with Ritter et al. (2012) that a viable hypothesis is that by increasing focus (attentional control) the students working memory’s were more efficient. Working memory is the minds limited capacity “mental workbench” (just think of trying to recall a new phone number you just looked up in the phone book). Increased attentional control (focus) increases the ability to actively maintain information just read in working memory long enough for it to be associated with material retrieved from long-term memory—thus “hooking” newly read information into the person’s store of acquired knowledge. Click here for a recent brief video (I think…therefore IM) where I explain the role of focus and working memory and how it may facilitate higher level cognitive processing, comprehension, etc.
Of course, the small total sample (n=49) suggests some degree of caution. But when combined with the Taub et al. (2007) study with larger samples, this form of replication in a new sample provides more support for the academic benefits (especially ease and rate of reading words) of IM interventions in school-age children. Independent replication is a cornerstone of scientific research.