The area of the brain that recognizes letters and words is ready for action right from the start.
- There's an area of the brain specializing in the recognition of letters and words.
- Neuroscientists wonder how this faculty develops since it would not be a trait associated with survival.
- fMRI scans reveal that this region is already connected to the brain's language centers in newborns.
Newborn and adult VWFAs<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDYwMTcyMy9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyOTYxOTUxNH0.8HkbpfRQ_816GFHXRd5vHMe2iOJL0sE81VrQF-H6ZY4/img.jpg?width=980" id="8f047" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="856da0e74e21a990eaebedea01646704" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="Family father and infant baby reading book" />
Credit: EVERST via Adobe Stock<p>Saygin, Li and their colleagues Heather Hansen and <a href="https://ccbbi.osu.edu/people/osher.6" target="_blank">David Osher</a> analyzed fMRI brain scans from 40 newborns and 40 adults that had been made as part of the <a href="http://www.developingconnectome.org/" target="_blank">Developing Human Connectome Project</a> and the <a href="http://www.humanconnectomeproject.org/" target="_blank">Human Connectome Project</a>, respectively.</p><p>The researchers found that even in the newborns who were less than a week old, the VWFA was different from the visual cortex in that it already had connections to the language areas of the brain. While the VWFA and visual cortex share some characteristics — they both require high spatial resolution in order to accurately comprehend what they're seeing — the study reveals that "the VWFA is specialized to see words even before we're exposed to them." </p><p>Comparing the newborn VWFA to the adult VFWA did reveal some differences, however. "Our findings suggest that there likely needs to be further refinement in the VWFA as babies mature," Saygin explains. "Experience with spoken and written language will likely strengthen connections with specific aspects of the language circuit and further differentiate this region's function from its neighbors as a person gains literacy."</p>
Tracking the VWFA<p>Saygin's lab is currently attempting to better understand the sort of further VWFA development that may occur prior to reading, by studying the brain region in 3- and 4-year-olds. Her team is also interested in identifying the types of visual stimuli the VWFA responds to at those ages.</p><p>Learning more about the VWFA is more than just interesting — it may also help experts address reading and other cognitive issues. "Knowing what this region is doing at this early age," says Saygin, "will tell us a bit more about how the human brain can develop the ability to read and what may go wrong. It is important to track how this region of the brain becomes increasingly specialized."</p>
The visual languages of comics and graphic novels are great exercise for developing brains.
- In addition to being fun, studies have shown that the visual language of graphic novels stimulates the brain in ways that complex text can.
- For some readers, information is easier to process through images than it is through text alone.
- These graphic novels are great for getting young readers into philosophy, technology, and other scientific narratives.
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Time and again, reading has been shown to make us healthier, smarter, and more empathic. How can we use literature as therapy during this moment of drastic change?
Early reading experiences play an important role in brain development.
- Recent studies have shown that children who grow up with books at home have increased literacy, numeracy, and information communication technology skills in adulthood.
- Bookstores and libraries are great, but according to researchers, early exposure at the parental home matters because "books are an integral part of routines and practices that enhance lifelong cognitive competencies."
- While age doesn't necessarily dictate reading level, here are titles suitable for children from a few months old up to 17 years.