Reading is a relatively new skill for humans in human history. Have you ever wondered how humans accomplish this remarkable task and how this reading skill affects your brain? Scientists are now trying to answer these questions.
How you can read
There is one region called visual word form area (VWFA) in your brain. It plays a critical role in visual word form processing, learning, and memory. As people learn to read, VWFA becomes sensitive to script (letters or characters), and thus bring you a better reading skill.
Since brain space is limited and extremely valuable, many researchers believe that the development of VWFA can detrimentally affect the brain's other functions, such as learning to read or observing a person's face. But a recent study argues that the opposite is true.
About the study
In the latest international study led by Falk Huettig and Alexis Hervais-Adelman, the researchers recruited over 90 adults living in a remote part of Northern India with varying degrees of literacy (from people unable to read to skilled readers).
After recruitment, the participants were invited to take part in a six-month literacy training program, where they learnt basic reading and writing skills.
In order to see whether their brains had changed after learning and whether those changes altered other parts of their brain, the researchers then used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to scan their brains when showing them sentences, letters, and other visual categories such as faces.
About the results
The results showed that the participants' brains changed after they learnt to read. The researchers found increased activity in various parts of the brain. And the same parts of the brain were activated when they observed visual objects.
These findings suggest that reading can boost the brain's visual system. "Thus learning to read is good for you," Alexis Hervais-Adelman concludes. "It sharpens visual brain responses beyond reading and has a general positive impact on your visual system."