Inside Your Brain When You’re Reading

A study published in the Journal of Neuroscience revealed ways to observe brain activity during “natural reading,” the reading of actual texts and not words.
Joseph Henderson, a professor of psychology at the University of California Davis, said “It’s a key advance in understanding reading in the brain, because people are just reading normally.”

Researchers combined functional MRI with eye tracking. As the subjects lay in an MRI scanner, a text was displayed on the screen which they read as the eye-tracking device registered which word they paid attention to at any given time.

By tracking the eye movements, researchers were able to know which word the reader was focusing on and also the neural signal for fixation on each word.

During the course of the study, the researchers sought to test two theories about how words are represented in the brain. Firstly, words are represented by connections to the real world – what does it look like, how do I handle it, how does it make me feel – reflected in brain areas for vision, touch, emotion, and so on.

See Also: 4 Strategies for Teaching Students How to Revise.

The second theory holds that words are represented as abstract symbols that interact with each other.

In testing for the theories, the nouns were ranked in their test paragraphs for manipulability i.e. do they refer to real objects that can be manipulated to some degree?

When reading the manipulable nouns, areas of the brain that deal with manipulation and conduct of physical actions lit up, affirming the view that words are represented in the brain by connections with real actions.

The technique, which provides a window into the brain, allows researchers to look at all kinds of unanswered questions i.e. are language and grammar handled by a specific part of the brain, does the brain anticipate upcoming words as we read.

The discoveries could help explain several reading deficits.

Sourced from The World Economic Forum

See Also: Perfectionalism: Stop Obsessing About Being Perfect.