Guest Blogger: Brianne Mohl
Wayne State University Student and March 15 Brain Awareness Day Volunteer
Have you picked up the newspaper or a favorite book and wondered, “How does my brain know this?” Translating random symbols into meaningful ideas is a wondrous process, better understood through neuroscience. Yet questions remain why some experience a whole new world when reading, while others struggle and associate it with torture. Exploring mechanisms responsible for our differences in the ability to read requires us to identify key elements we must develop to master it. Slip back a few years as you consider these elements now automatic for you. As a reader, you must:
1. Pay attention to what you are reading.
Attention uses many areas of your brain, including the prefrontal cortex (in the front on the outside part of your brain), basal ganglia (deep inside the middle), and parietal lobe (top, back part). All these areas need to communicate with each other, so you can focus on what you are reading.
2. Know letters and what they represent.
Seeing letters is possible thanks to your eyeballs sending signals through neurons to the back of your brain. Once your brain combines the signals, it sends the information to another area, the fusiform gyrus, to figure out what you are seeing. After the letters are identified, it’s on to making the correct sounds.
3. Put letters and sounds together in your head to “read” a word.
An area of your brain called the angular gyrus (just above where the seeing, hearing, and processing sections meet) is really good at taking written words and turning them into sounds in your head. With the angular gyrus hard at work, you can figure out what new or silly words, like “glerpy”, sound like.
4. Remember the words you have just read.
Working memory is much like attention – many parts of your brain communicate to keep thinking about what you just saw. Beginning readers need working memory to think about sounds before putting them together into words. Expert readers use working memory,putting words together to form sentences and paragraphs. Without working memory, long sentences wouldn’t just be tough to understand; they would be nearly impossible.
For some, these elements are not completely developed… leading to frustration and difficulty reading. As you may be able to translate, the brain does an incredible amount of work to be capable of this function. We hope you get inspired by the human brain’s magnificence when we share our discoveries, answer questions, and talk more about brains at Brain Day on March 15 with Wayne State University at the Michigan Science Center. Thanks for reading!