A map of the brain could help to guess what you’re reading

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A 3D map of how the brain responds to words could unlock new ways to understand and treat dyslexia and speech disorders.

Map-making: Researchers at UC Berkeley used functional MRI to measure nine volunteers’ brain activity (using blood flow as a proxy) as they listened to, and then read, stories from “The Moth Radio Hour,” a storytelling podcast which airs on 500 radio stations around the world. The researchers collected volunteers’ brain activity data for reading (one word at a time, to help separate the data) and listening to recordings of the same text, then matched both sets of data against time-stamped transcriptions of the stories.

Language links: The results were then fed into a computer program, which mapped out thousands of words according to their relationship to each other, using natural-language processing. For example, the “social” category includes words like “husband,” “father,” and “sister.” Different categories sparked activity in different parts of the brain: these “social” words were found on the right side, behind the ear. This area also responded most strongly to words that describe people or dramatic events, as well as words that describe time.

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A font for dyslexia

Watching my kids learning how to read made me truly appreciate how difficult it can be to distinguish letters of the Roman alphabet. If you think about it, a lot of the letters are truly alike – b and p are the same thing with different rotation, v and w look almost the same and so on. Dyslexics have even greater trouble because their brains constantly “mix up” these letters…

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How We Identify Letters

How We Identify Letters 

The next time you are reading a book, or even as you read this article, consider the words that you are seeing. How do you recognize these words? Substantial research has shown that while reading, we recognize words by their letters and not by the general shape of the word. However, it was largely unknown how we differentiate one letter from another.

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