Durham Research in Primary Schools -- The Durham Trial
This trial is the largest and most extensive study to look at
fatty acids and learning conditions. During the course of 2002, more
than 100 children at 12 schools in the county were daily given
either active or placebo capsules in a double-blind, randomised
format. The main aim of the trial was to look at Dyspraxia and Motor
skills, but there were also full assessments for Dyslexia and ADHD.
More than 12,000 assessments were undertaken in the course of the
year, and reports from parents, teachers and children involved in
the study have been encouraging. A complete statistical overview of
the study has yet to be released, as analysis of the data is
'The response has been very encouraging. In very broad terms.
we saw that up to 40 per cent of children on the trial showed
dramatic improvements. In some individual cases, we saw reading age
gains of between 18 months and four years, and attention gains of as
much as 400 per cent.'
Dr Madeleine Portwood, Senior
Educational Psychologist who ran the trial.
The Study Design
The Education Authority was delighted to collaborate on the study
with the Dyslexia Research Trust - an Oxford-based charity that has
done much research into the causes of learning conditions, and Dr
Alex Richardson, senior fellow of Mansfield College at Oxford
University, whose specialty is on how fatty acids can help with
learning conditions. As it can take several weeks before fatty-acid
supplementation show results, the collaborators opted for a simple
design: a six-month-long trial throughout the 2002 school year, with
a one-way cross-over at the mid-point.
- Nearly 200 children were initially identified. All of the
children had some difficulties with coordination - many had
additional problems with concentration and learning.
- A total of 12 schools participated, and crucially, the schools
were to have a direct role in administering the treatment.
- The capsules were to be randomised, that is, assigned on the
basis of a code that none of the researchers were able to access.
As we were dealing with very inquisitive children, we had to
ensure there was no detectable difference between placebo and
- The capsules also had to be double-blinded, meaning that those
taking the capsules and those giving out the capsules had to be
'blind' to which participants were on active and which on placebo.
- For the second three months of the trial, all would be on
active. Under this design, when the data is analysed, it may be
possible to see a response in those under active treatment in the
first three months, that would be mirrored by the placebo group,
when they switched to active for the second three months.
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