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Your Brain on Books

Scientific American interviews Stanislas Dehaene, author of The Number Sense and Reading in the Brain. Dehaane talks a little about what happens in the brain when we read and how it’s almost a miracle that we can read at all. From the article:

One of my long-time interests concerns how the human brain is changed by education and culture. Learning to read seems to be one of the more important changes that we impose to our children’s brain. The impact that it has on us is tantalizing. It raises very fundamental issues of how the brain and culture interact.

As I started to do experimental research in this domain, using the different tools at my disposal (from behavior to patients, fMRI, event-related potentials, and even intracranial electrodes), I was struck that we always found the same areas involved in the reading process. I began to wonder how it was even possible that our brain could adapt to reading, given it obviously never evolved for that purpose. The search for an answer resulted in this book. And, in the end, reading forces us to propose a very different view of the relationship between culture and the brain.