CHILDREN and young people with learning difficulties are to benefit from a new £5 million research and support centre.

The Salvesen Mindroom Centre to "Understand and Resolve Learning Difficulties" is being set up at the University of Edinburgh in association with the charity Mindroom.

Said to be the first of its kind in the UK, the centre is a "unique collaboration" between the university, Mindroom - a Scottish charity helping children and young people with learning difficulties - and the NHS.

Staff at the centre will seek to advance research, diagnosis, assessment and treatment. They will also progress intervention and community outreach for children and young people with learning difficulties.

The centre's staff will work closely with key partners in the NHS, Education and Children and Families services.

Funding for the virtual centre has been donated to the university by businessman and philanthropist Alastair Salvesen, chairman of Dawnfresh Seafoods, and his wife, Elizabeth. The donation is the second largest personal gift to the university after author JK Rowling donated £10 million to fund the Anne Rowling Regenerative Neurology Clinic.

Professor Anne O'Hare, director designate of the new centre and consultant paediatrician, said: "Through the Salvesens' gift we will be able to deliver a better approach to supporting children with the wide range of conditions that impact on their learning."

At least five children in every school class in the UK have some form of learning difficulty, the university said.

A wide range of conditions can impact on learning for children and young people including dyslexia, dyspraxia, specific speech and language impairments, developmental coordination disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and autism spectrum disorder.

Researchers and clinicians at the centre will also work with and draw on expertise from existing University of Edinburgh centres.

These include the Patrick Wild Centre for Research into Autism, Fragile X Syndrome and Intellectual Disabilities, the Anne Rowling clinic and the Euan MacDonald Centre for Motor Neurone Disease Research.

Mr Salvesen said: "Elizabeth and I are delighted to make this gift. We consider that the majority of children who have learning difficulties suffer from dyslexia, dyspraxia and ADHD. They can be reached and helped quickly through Mindroom, the NHS and education departments throughout Scotland.

"The University of Edinburgh will now coordinate this effort, which will involve its existing neuroscientific research centres.

"By gathering meaningful statistics and undertaking research, those with learning difficulties of all types should benefit greatly in the long term."