Whether reading Chinese characters or French words written alphabetically, the same areas light up in our brains, an insight that could inform learning strategies for literacy...
Learning to read Chinese might seem daunting to Westerners used to an alphabetic script, but brain scans of French and Chinese native speakers show that people harness the same brain centers for reading across cultures. The findings are published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Reading involves two neural systems: one that recognizes the shape of the word and a second that assesses the physical movements used to make the marks on a page, says study leader Stanislas Dehaene, a cognitive neuroscientist the National Institute of Health and Medical Research in Gif-sur-Yvette, France.
But it has been unclear whether the brain networks responsible for reading are universal or culturally distinct. Previous studies have suggested that alphabetic writing systems (such as French) and logographic ones (such as Chinese, in which single characters represent entire words) writing systems might engage different networks in the brain.