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Science

LEARNING TO READ BEING ADULT CAUSES DEEP CHANGE IN THE BRAIN

As adults learn to read, their brain undergoes profound changes in different structures, according to a study published today in the journal Science Advances.

Previous studies have shown that this learning modifies the cortex, the most superficial area of the brain, but this research carried out by the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics in the Netherlands postulates that other structures such as the thalamus and brain stem undergo changes.

Falk Huettig, one of the researchers who led this work, told EFE that the team was looking for replicating the results of previous studies.

Scientists worked with people from India, a country where one-third of the population is illiterate.

After several months, they saw that changes in the cerebral cortex did indeed occur, but also observed that the learning process led to a reorganization that extended to deeper structures.

These structures, Huettig pointed out, “help our visual cortex to filter out important information even before we consciously perceive it.”

“We found that the more the signals aligned between the two regions of the brain, the better reading ability was,” he added.

For researchers, it seems that these two parties “sharpen their communication” as people are more able in reading.

“The social significance of this type of research is enormous: billions of adults are completely illiterate all over the world, but in the western countries as well as in the United States there are millions of functional illiterates, that is, people who have difficult to read even very simple sentences”, Huettig said.

“We need to understand how flexible the adult brain is to acquire a very complex capacity as it is to read in adult life, in order to create literacy programs with a better chance of succeeding in helping those people”, he added.

From the perspective of research, the meaning of this study is also “very interesting,” according to Huettig.

“Writing is a very recent cultural invention if we look at the evolutionary history of our species.” The first writings were invented less than 6,000 years ago, meaning that there is no reading area or a specific reading network in our genes, the researcher said.

For him, seeing how cultural inventions have changed brain functions and structures helps to understand how the brain works at a basic level.

The results may also have implications for research on dyslexia.

One of the possible causes for the basic deficit observed in people with dyslexia has been attributed to dysfunctions in the thalamus, but for researchers that issue should be reviewed now.

“As we find that only a few months of reading can modify the thalamus, we have to scrutinize that hypothesis”, Huettig said.

Researchers now plan a study that directly compares the acquisition of reading ability in childhood and into adulthood and has begun work to evaluate learning mathematical skills.

Washington, May 25, 2017, EFE/Practica Español


Grammar notes:  verbal periphrases,indirect questions


Ejercicio de comprensión B.2 (Comprehension B.2)

Lee la noticia y responde las preguntas. (Read the news and answer the questions)

Congratulations - you have completed Lee la noticia y responde las preguntas. (Read the news and answer the questions). You scored %%SCORE%% out of %%TOTAL%%. Your performance has been rated as %%RATING%%
Your answers are highlighted below.
Question 1
La noticia trata...
A
de un estudio sobre el correcto funcionamiento cerebral.
B
de cómo el aprendizaje puede afectar a la estructura cerebral.
C
de la publicación de unos consejos para leer rápidamente.
Question 2
Según el texto, la alfabetización en adultos...
A
causa cambios significativos en el cerebro de esas personas.
B
no altera la estructura cerebral.
C
causa cambios irrelevantes en el cerebro.
Question 3
Para Huetting...
A
la escritura y la lectura evitan la modificación de funciones y estructuras cerebrales.
B
las invenciones culturales no influyen en la modificación de las funciones y estructuras cerebrales.
C
es importante saber cómo la escritura y la lectura modifican las funciones y estructuras cerebrales.
Question 4
Según el texto, este estudio...
A
no influirá en los estudios publicados sobre las personas que tienen dificultades en el aprendizaje.
B
no aporta nada nuevo a las investigaciones relacionadas con las dificultades en el aprendizaje.
C
podría abrir nuevas investigaciones relacionadas con las dificultades en el aprendizaje.
Question 5
Este descubrimiento podría ayudar a conocer mejor el funcionamiento del cerebro.
A
Verdadero.
B
Falso.
C
No se sabe.
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