What Happens In The Brain While Reading?
Different brain parts get activated when you read, such as the temporal lobe, angular and supramarginal gyrus, and frontal lobe. Consequently, neural responses help you understand, visualize and vocalize words. As you read, your brain’s limbic system also activates emotions.
Brain activity increases in the left hemisphere while reading. Your brain becomes engaged in helping you decode sound, handle speech production, and use and comprehend grammar.
When you understand what happens in the brain while reading, you can improve your reading skills. It will help you learn how to read fast and retain information.
This article will let you know which brain parts activate reading and the process of brain activity while reading. You will also get to know if the brain activity of poor readers can improve and how reading changes the brain.
The parts of the brain involved in reading
The brain doesn’t use specific parts to read. Instead, reading engages different regions of the brain via multiple processes. Thanks to brain imaging, you can now see pictures of brain activity and anatomy while reading. Brain imaging shows which brain parts activate as you read.
An experienced reader will activate the different parts of the brain located in the left hemisphere of the brain such as:
The temporal lobe
The temporal lobe decodes sounds and gives you phonological awareness (telling the structure of syllables, individual phonemes, and words). The parts of the temporal lobe responsible while reading include:
- The occipital-temporal region located at the back helps you with fluent reading since it stores images and the meaning of words. The occipital-temporal area helps you quickly identify letters, words, and language without sounding them out.
- The parietal-temporal region located towards the back works to break words into sounds.
The angular and supramarginal gyrus
The angular and supramarginal gyrus link or integrate multiple parts of the brain to perform the reading activity. They will connect letter by letter to form a word to enable you to read aloud.
The frontal lobe
The frontal lobe is responsible for creating speech sounds. It helps you think about pronouncing written words. It handles different functions for speech to happen, such as:
- Reading fluency
- Understanding and using grammar (complex and simple)
- Producing speech
Brain activity process that takes place while reading
Reading is a complicated process that activates different neural responses in the brain. Understanding brain activity while reading will help you know how to get better at it. Here’s the process it takes your brain from words to meaning;
1. Morphological recognition
Your left frontal lobe activates morphological recognition for you to understand letters that create a word. You will also have syntactic recognition to know whether the word is a verb or name and its tense. As such, your brain creates links between words for later recognition.
The process of understanding letters that create words activates the visual cortex, and it moves the word to the angular rotation. You will have a phonetic representation of the word as it is sent to the fusiform gyrus.
The words are then transported to the frontal and temporal areas, where you can know their meaning. At this point, you get the meaning and morphological recognition in the lower anterior frontal gyrus to combine.
2. Text comprehension
After understanding the words, the next step is text comprehension, examining their syntactic and semantic relations. In other words, you will analyze how words flow, their tenses, and the information on the title.
The anterior temporal lobes and left frontal are responsible for syntactic processing. Brain activity then takes a lower left turn for syntactic and thematic processing, where you can tell how the subjects and verbs interact. Additionally, you will evaluate the meaning of a complete sentence.
Consequently, the inferior frontal cortex becomes highly active when you see phrases not in harmony with the rest of the text. The inferior frontal cortex is less active when you read something logical.
Other parts of the temporal region will activate when you read texts related to people. It helps you access broader meaning since reading is related to memory.
3. Emotional and cognitive processing
The brain processes that happen in the limbic system activate emotion. Activating emotion from memory and learning is an effective way to accept new information. Emotion while reading also increases your attention span.
Reading emotionally charged words(sensual/condescending) increases your reading time. Hence, emotional stories will activate your attention and motivation networks in your brain.
The anterior dorsal cingulate cortex and dorsolateral will activate as you read. You will then start to pay attention, plan, associate, and monitor information. Lastly, your prefrontal cortex will activate to link all the information as the anterior cingulate pays attention to what you read.
Can the brain activity of struggling readers improve?
Poor readers can start to function like good readers with effective reading instruction because their brains show increased activity in the temporal lobe.
A 2004 study, ‘Imaging Study Reveals Brain Function Of Poor Readers Can Improve,’ shows that poor readers can conquer their reading disabilities.
An efficient reader reads fast and retains information. Suppose you are a fast reader who has a problem holding on to information. In that case, you can take our Personal Productivity course to help maximize your memory.
This course provides you with practical techniques that help you retain critical information while reading. It is perfect for students and professionals.
What happens to someone with dyslexia while reading?
Dyslexia is a language problem where the brain develops differently. It makes it hard for the occipital, temporal cortex to integrate and understand words. The brains of dyslexic readers are under-activated in areas where reading comprehension occurs.
The brain’s left hemisphere of a person with dyslexia is not used. Instead, some parts of the right hemisphere and the frontal region are activated, making it difficult to read and understand.
Here’s how different parts of the brain work in a person with dyslexia:
- The temporoparietal cortex– there is less activity here; hence a child with dyslexia will have difficulty understanding the sound structure of words. However, the temporoparietal cortex shows higher activity after reading interventions.
- Inferior-frontal cortex- people with dyslexia will show less activity in the left inferior frontal gyrus than skilled readers.
- Occipital-temporal cortex– this area stores images and meaning of information; hence you can recognize sight words. In people with dyslexia, there is less activity in this area, hence the difficulty in mastering sight words.
Ways in which reading changes your brain
When you look at words, your brain runs multiple processes such as analyzing words, understanding meaning, visualizing, and vocalizing. Reading will affect your brain in the following ways:
Reading puts you in the character’s shoes biologically
Reading improves the activity in your central sulcus (in the brain). The central sulcus is responsible for motor activity sensory. As you read, the neurons in this region activate to give the sensation of experiencing what the book describes. If a fictional character in your book is running, neurons linked to running activate.
Reading creates white matter and rewires the brain
Reading can change brain tissue in multiple ways. It makes the brain rewire itself and creates white matter, making communication within the brain efficient. If you want to enhance communication within the brain, you can fix them by reading regularly.
Reading improves working memory
Reading is an exercise for the brain since it is neurobiologically challenging. It will help your brain increase memory capacity by engaging different brain functions. When reading, your comprehension, visual and auditory processes, fluency, phonemic awareness, and fluency are all involved.
If you want to boost your memory, try reading every day. Reading allows your brain to stop, analyze, and process compared to listening or watching.
The heightened mental activity allows you to remember easily. Your brain activity boosts due to reading and analyzing all the letters, words, sentences and combining them to become a story.
Reading improves your attention span
Reading boosts your brain activity which enhances memory and adds to your attention span. You will think in sequence since reading allows you to follow a story from beginning to end. For example, when reading a novel, the focus is on how the story is built, not rushing through sentences.
When it comes to the internet, your brain splits attention, multi-tasks, and increases capacity for short-term memory. However, reading a book allows you to read from one chapter to another instead of skipping tabs.
Learn to read faster with Iris Reading!
Reading is a complex process that involves activating different parts of the brain. While reading, the left frontal lobe of your brain activates to understand letters and words.
The anterior temporal lobe then analyzes the flow of words and their tense. Lastly, the limbic system activates emotions for you to accept and retain information.
Are you a poor reader who wants to improve your brain activity?
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