Back in October we wrote about how intensive language learning makes your brain grow, comparing it with a muscle that’s constantly been trained .
Today, I read some interesting new research about the active areas of the brain when reading. Interestingly, the area used the most doesn’t depend on the language we’re reading in, not even the family of languages.
It was previously thought that different neural networks were involved depending on what language the test person was reading in.
Now, French and Taiwanese researchers contradict this belief. In their tests they had their volunteers read both in French and Chinese as their native language.
As we all know, there is some significant difference between the two languages and their respective concepts. French being a Romance language and its characters are based on the Roman alphabet. It is therefore counted into the abstract concepts whereas Chinese is a logographic language which basically means that its characters are depictions. It’s not an abstract language but one built upon pictures.
The material, in cursive and handwritten, was presented in various different forms, i.e. normal, static, backwards distorted. The researchers also used priming as it affects the rate at which readers recognize words. They found that both groups, the French and the Taiwanese participants, showed the same brain activity with only minimal differences in motor skills.
They find the likely answer in describing reading as a relatively new skill for the human brain. Therefore, it is plausible that our brain uses existing neural circuits to execute this ‘new skill’, independently from what language it is processing.
To put it short and simple, our visual word recognition is more universal than previously thought.