View Full Version : The reading brain

02-11-2008, 11:02 PM
Just now I'm reading a review of a new book by Maryanne Wolfe called Proust and the Squid:The Story and Science of the Reading Brain. I haven't got the book yet, but I think I will. Unfortunately you can't get the review unless you subscribe to The New England Journal, but I'll summarize the things that interested me.

The book is about what we know of the neuroscience of reading. Reading is only 5,000 years old or so, pretty recent in evolution. The author posits that the brain learned to read by borrowing networks that were already there, but evolved for other purposes. The brain harnesses networks that evolved as image-processing systems to oral language networks already in place to connect the two activities. When that is seamless, then we read well.

I find this interesting because, at least until recently, reading was both an oral/aural and a visual activity. Medieval scholars read by moving their lips and reciting to themselves, making the library an unquiet place. Children in the 1800s were taught to read out loud, and reading aloud to a group was a pretty standard way to enjoy literature until quite recently.

02-12-2008, 12:26 AM
While I read pretty fast without any kind of auditory help, I've found that reading difficult passages out loud reallly helps my comprehension. That sounds like a really interesting book!

02-12-2008, 12:38 AM
Iinteresting to be sure-I grew up reading aloud in class which I always enjoyed-the written word I have always thought of as a kind of progression from cave paintings-naive that I be-like efforts to put into something tangible along with the idea of not only transferring ideas around the campfire in the form of stories but keeping them for the future just in case the tribe was destroyed by outer space folks or naughty spaniards-thanks for the thread Colorado!

Eternal Student
05-17-2008, 07:14 AM
I find that students, and myself, read best when engaged in the story as if they are experiencing it/watching it. As a teacher, I was taught to evaluate learning styles of students and to categorize my students by learning style so I could better teach them. I would guess based on what DamaNegra just said that she was an auditory learner. The readers that read aloud are possibly connecting the visual to the auditory as that is how they are wired. I see particularly engaging novels as movies when I read. It is not literally a feature movie, since I don't see many of the characters and don't always picture the scenery. However, it still affects the way I write, and I get the same feeling reading a book as I do watching a movie that I find engaging. Nothing deep, just speculating on possible patterns and correlations.

05-17-2008, 07:20 AM
Generally everything involving "higher-level cognition" must have piggybacked on stuff that's been around longer, so I like books that start with that assumption :)

We have multisensory bits of the brain that integrate (for example) auditory and visual information. You can probably see why that's evolutionarily useful :)
These seem to have overlap with the mirror systems, which are involved in understanding (for example) that someone else kicking a ball is the same action as you kicking a ball.

I can sort of fuzzily see why that leads to us having this visual/auditory link for narrative, and language is really mostly narrative of some sort. Who did what to whom when and where stuff.

05-17-2008, 08:41 AM
Gee, it is really nice that you are so "IN" the 21st century. If I didn't past a test, I was stupid, that's it. I got home with a note and was beaten by my parents.

I'd like a reference, or a link for these learning styles so that I am not as much a troglodyte as my ancestors were. I'm always willing to learn despite butt bruises which would have made the wicked faint.

05-17-2008, 08:48 AM
Gee, it is really nice that you are so "IN" the 21st century. If I didn't past a test, I was stupid, that's it. I got home with a note and was beaten by my parents.
That's sad.

Basically different people are better with different senses. Some people learn better by hearing, others by vision, others my actually manipulating objects. Most everybody does best if they can do all three, of course, but which one's most important varies.

So some people just don't get things when they hear 'em and have to see 'em written down... etc.