Researchers are constantly finding that reading is healthy for your mind and overall well-being. A new study conducted for Science Advances that focused on the effects of learning to read as an adult showed that reading activates deeper parts of the brain than scientists previously thought.
The research committee taught 30 adult women, from two villages in India, how to read. Participants went under functional magnetic resonance imaging scans to study brain functions before and after learning to read the Devanagari alphabet. Over the course of six months, they learned letters, then monosyllabic words, and eventually left the program with the ability to read and write at a first-grade level.
When studying the brain scans, scientists expected to find minor changes in only the brain cortex, a part of the brain that adapts quickly to new challenges. Instead, they found that the positive results went even deeper. “We observed that the learning process leads to a reorganization that extends to deep brain structures in the thalamus and the brainstem,” they said. Learning to read and write specifically enhanced a part of the brainstem called the superior colliculus, as well as the pulvinar, located in the thalamus, which “adapt the timing of their activity patterns to those of the visual cortex.”
Basically: the brain function that helps filter and absorbs useful information develops as the reader becomes more and more proficient in reading.
This study not only showed how adaptable the human brain is even when in your 30’s or 40’s, but also how the effect of reading can cause your brain to fine tune itself as the new learner becomes better at reading.
Seeing how reading affects different parts of the brain also changes how we perceive issues relating to reading. Dyslexia was always believed to be a disorder of the thalamus. This new research shows that it could be that their visual cortex issue or “a disruption of the underlying neural pathway connecting the lateral geniculate nucleus of the thalamus with V5.” Hopefully, this will inspire better treatment as we have a better idea of which part of the brain causes dyslexia.
So, keep reading and help your brain become stronger!
Feature image courtesy of Success.com