Michael McCloskey and his colleagues in the Cognitive Science Department at Johns Hopkins have discovered a new and unusual form of reading disability, in which visual awareness for letters and/or digits is disturbed. The affected characters appear so blurred or jumbled as to be unrecognizable, although visual perception is otherwise normal. The researchers are studying two individuals with this disability (termed Alphanumeric Visual Awareness Disorder, or AVAD): a 12-year-old girl who suffered a stroke, and a 61-year-old man with a progressive neurological condition. The results are shedding light on reading and reading disabilities, the brain activity giving rise to awareness of the visual world, and the mental activities that can occur without our awareness. The studies have also led to successful treatment of the disorder in both individuals. Most notably, the 12-year-old child, who was entirely unable to read for nearly two years, is able to read fluently once again.
Michael McCloskey is Professor of Cognitive Science at Johns Hopkins University. He received his Ph.D. in Cognitive Psychology from Princeton University in 1978, and then joined the Johns Hopkins faculty. Prof. McCloskey studies the deficits in language and visual perception that occur when the brain is damaged or fails to develop normally. The goals of this research are to achieve a better understanding normal language and perception, and to improve the diagnosis and treatment of deficits. Prof. McCloskey is the author of numerous journal articles, and the 2009 book Visual Reflections: A Perceptual Deficit and its Implications. Learn more about Dr. McCloskey