February 28, 2011
The same area of the brain is activated whether you’re a blind person reading Braille with your hands or a sighted person reading with your eyes.
BOB HIRSHON (host):
Braille on the brain…I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.
You might think that normally sighted people and blind people use different parts of the brain to read. But a new study challenges that view. Hebrew University of Jerusalem neuroscientist Amir Amedi scanned the brains of blind people while they read Braille.
AMIR AMEDI (Hebrew University of Jerusalem):
And what we found was that the visual word form area, the same brain area that is activated while reading is activated while the blind read Braille. We actually couldn’t tell if it’s a sighted person that reads by vision or if it’s a blind individual that’s using his hands to read.
He says that reading is a recent phenomenon in evolutionary terms, so we haven’t had time to evolve a specialized brain structure for it. Instead, we most likely co-opted a region of the brain that was previously used to make sense of both patterns, both visual and tactile. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.