Interesting Discoveries About the Brain (9)

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…

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3 Comments

  1. Hi Trisha. Thanks so much for linking to my essay, which also gave me the change to find your blog. I’m enjoying reading posts…

  2. My thought (confirmed by many important scientists, I’m sure) . . .

    Reading to kids and having them read to us is the BEST way to ensure a life long love of learning since, once developed, the increased synapses and pathways in the brain will encourage them to KEEP READING.

  3. Hi Bill – Thank you for your comments – I very much enjoyed your essay so it’s probably more appropriate for me to thank you!

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