Learning to Read & The Brain

Image result for cerebral cortex and thalamus

Anything to do with the brain, science and reading has me hooked from page one. Yesterday, Torah Kuchar (@DrTorahKachur) did exactly this when she reported through the CBC in a piece called “New research reveals what happens when adults learn to read.”

Obviously – OBVIOUSLY! – the cerebral cortex (learning and high intellectual processes) lights up like a Rockefeller Center Christmas tree when someone is learning to read, but it was scientists didn’t expect that intrigued them:

“The ability to read stimulated deeper, more ancient brain structures like the thalamus that normally functions as a relay point to integrate sensory and motor input and is involved in consciousness and sleep regulation. None of those functions you’d really associate with reading.

What they found was that the ability to read is not unique to humans in that other mammals can distinguish complex written shapes, and we share those brain regions. This doesn’t mean mice can read Tolstoy, but that they have similar brain structures to process complex symbols. What they can’t do, and what we can, is ascribe meaning to those shapes. We use our higher level processing centres in our cortex to do this.”  

Ms. Kuchar goes on to discuss how this impacts our understanding of dyslexia (any of various reading disorders associated with impairment of the ability to interpret spatial relationships or to integrate auditory and visual information) and in what way(s) the thalamus may have something to do with its origins.

I’d like to utter a witticism after reading an article like that, perhaps something along the lines of “I f****** love science,” but unfortunately someone already beat me to the punch (line) on that one.


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