Language and reading seem to us in our society to be interchangeable but while language exists all over the world since time immemorial, reading is a relatively new activity. The fact is that many people alive today, while fully endowed with language, will never learn to read.
Learning to read is not the same in terms of brain activity as expressing yourself verbally. Though language is indeed a process that involves many areas our brains, it does have designated areas – language centres – that are clearly associated with language – Broca’s area and Wernicke’s area for example are both areas concerned with speech production.
Reading, on the other hand, does not have any clear ‘centres’ associated with it and it is not located in any one part of the brain. Reading naturally is associated with the areas of speech and language, but it also requires us to use many other parts of our brains.
Brain imaging shows that when the brain is presented with a jumble of letters it reacts differently to when it is presented with a written word. When the letters don’t make an intelligible word, only the visual association areas are activated. In contrast, when presented with a real word, almost half the cerebral cortex lights up.
Could ordinary reading, then – for those of us lucky enough to be able to read – not only provide us with information and education but also be the ‘work-out’ for the brain that so many people are trying to sell us nowadays?
Sorry – brain-training companies…
- Can we expand our capacity for creativity and discovery with brain plasticity? (whatisyourrealquestion.wordpress.com)
- Grandmother, What a Fascinating Brain You Have! (billdaviswords.wordpress.com)