This is your Brain on Books

Ever wonder what’s going on in your noodle when you read? Recently, while researching how the brain works (It’s just the kinda stuff I enjoy) I came across several interesting articles on the subject of reading and how the brain functions. I’ll summarize these here.

Right now the letters, words and their meanings are being compared to what you have already learned. The sounds are processed in your head just like you are listening to me speak. Letters, sounds and meanings appear to be the most active functions in the brain. When you think you actually hear the sounds, not with your ears but with some of the processes you use when hearing. I can agree with that. When I think words it feels like I can hear them spoken in my head, I hope I’m not alone on this one.

In order for someone to be able to read they must be able to recognize and decode the text, translating it into spoken form and be able to understand the spoken language. If you are speaking to someone and they don’t understand you then the criteria of one these functions have not been met. That is why we rephrase what we say. Being individuals that have completely different experiences is the cause of this, not because they are idiots like we previously thought as we rolled our eyes in condescension.

Science knows very little about the functions of the brain. MRI technology allows us to see activities in the brain as we perform tasks. We know what parts of the brain are affected and deduce what is happening. Now we understand that if a person loses their sight because of an injury to the part of the brain that receives the image, they may still be able to navigate an obstacle course. Seeing, like hearing, activates many other areas of the brain that receives information from these senses as well. The image or sound is not received but if the eye or ear nerves function then the brain still gets lots of other information, giving the person some use of that sense. Imagine that!

One function discussed is automatic eye movements required for reading. This is a feature that is required for attention. This difference in listening and reading might explain why our parents said watching television would rot our brains. Television spoon feeds the brain information that requires less attention and we fatigue these brain functions without much effort.

Reading may be one brain function harder than listening and causes us to prefer watching a movie or television so let’s realize this and not become lazy. Reading is one of the most important parts of being a good writer. How can we write well if we don’t know what good writing looks like?

If you want to read all the technical functioning of the reading brain visit: The Brain and Reading by : Sebastian Wren, Ph.D.

About The Author

Robert Hatfield hails from mid-western Ohio. Comedy and Adventure stories are his passion. Editing and Reviewing are the fields of work he enjoys. Writing has been an interest for the past 25 years and he now has the time to pursue it. As a Moderator on, he welcomes any questions or requests for help.

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