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Nat Rev Neurosci. 2015 Apr;16(4):234-44. doi: 10.1038/nrn3924. Epub 2015 Mar 18.

Illiterate to literate: behavioural and cerebral changes induced by reading acquisition.

Author information

1
Collège de France, 11 Place Marcelin Berthelot, 75005 Paris, France; INSERM, Cognitive Neuroimaging Unit, NeuroSpin Center, Gif sur Yvette 91191, France; Commissariat à l'Energie Atomique, Direction des Sciences du Vivant, I2BM, Neurospin Center, Gif sur Yvette 91191, France; and Université Paris-Sud 11, 91405 Orsay, France.
2
Institut du Cerveau et de la Moelle épinière, ICM, F-75013 Paris, France; INSERM, U 1127, F-75013 Paris, France; Sorbonne Universités, UPMC Université Paris 06, UMR S 1127, F-75013 Paris, France; CNRS, UMR 7225, F-75013 Paris, France; and the Assistance Publique Hôpitaux de Paris (AP-HP) Hôpital de la Pitié Salpêtrière, Department of Neurology, F-75013 Paris, France.
3
Unité de Recherche en Neurosciences Cognitives (UNESCOG), Center for Research in Cognition and Neurosciences (CRCN), Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB), CP 191, Avenue F. Roosevelt, 50, B-1050 Brussels, Belgium.
4
Unité de Recherche en Neurosciences Cognitives (UNESCOG), Center for Research in Cognition and Neurosciences (CRCN), Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB), CP 191, Avenue F. Roosevelt, 50, B-1050 Brussels, Belgium; and the Fonds de la Recherche Scientifique-FNRS, Rue d'Egmont, 5, B-1000 Brussels, Belgium.

Abstract

The acquisition of literacy transforms the human brain. By reviewing studies of illiterate subjects, we propose specific hypotheses on how the functions of core brain systems are partially reoriented or 'recycled' when learning to read. Literacy acquisition improves early visual processing and reorganizes the ventral occipito-temporal pathway: responses to written characters are increased in the left occipito-temporal sulcus, whereas responses to faces shift towards the right hemisphere. Literacy also modifies phonological coding and strengthens the functional and anatomical link between phonemic and graphemic representations. Literacy acquisition therefore provides a remarkable example of how the brain reorganizes to accommodate a novel cultural skill.

PMID:
25783611
DOI:
10.1038/nrn3924
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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