The Brain Was Not Designed To Read
From a recent presentation by Guinevere Eden, director of the Center for the Study of Learning at Georgetown University: “There’s something really important to remember and that sometimes we forget. When we study the reading brain, we have to remember the brain was not designed to read.” Eden said language has been around for hundreds of thousands of years and it develops spontaneously in a child. Reading, however, does not. “Reading is a cultural invention,” Eden said. “There’s nothing designed in the brain to make us readers. Reading has only been around for 4,000 years, maybe a little longer. There are no systems in place from an evolutionary perspective designed for reading.” The brain is apportioned for various tasks. However, Eden said, when people learn to read, brain areas designed for other skills are being converted for the reading skill. “It’s important to remember this is a skill that we have invented and we use to access knowledge and information,” Eden said. “It’s not a skill that we have a designated brain region for. It’s something the brain has to learn and it takes many years to learn it. For some individuals, it’s just a huge challenge to do this very specific skill”: http://bit.ly/IQoksz.
The researcher Stanislas Dehaene has a wonderful phrase for this borrowing of brain areas designed for other tasks: he calls it “neuronal recycling.” It’s important to remember that none of us are born to read the way we’re born to speak our native language; each individual brain has to be painstakingly rewired in order to perform this newfangled (evolutionarily speaking) skill.