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Appl Neuropsychol. 2002;9(1):3-12.

How reading works: considerations from prehistory to the present.

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  • 1Iowa City Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Coralville 52240, USA.


Reading is not a "natural" human ability. Because reading was invented only 6,000 years ago there cannot have developed any central nervous system structures specifically for the purpose of mediating reading. The anthropological concept of preadaptation, which states that the evolution of a structure for one purpose can enable that structure to perform another, must be true for reading. The research discussed in this article looks into the functions that preadapted the brain for reading. Findings suggest that the ancient skills of gestural comprehension and animal tracking were the underpinnings of brain organization that permitted reading to occur.

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