Neuroscientists at UC Davis have come up with a way to observe brain activity during natural reading. It’s the first time researchers have been able to study the brain while reading actual texts, instead of individual words, and it’s already helping settle some ideas about just how we read.
As volunteers read the manipulable nouns, areas of the brain that deal with manipulation and carrying out physical actions lit up, lending support to the view that words are represented in the brain by connections with real actions.
By providing a window into brain activity during natural reading, the FIRE-fMRI technique allows the UC Davis group to look at all kinds of unanswered questions, Henderson said, such as whether language and grammar are handled by a specific part of the brain, and whether the brain anticipates upcoming words as we read. These discoveries would have implications not just for human psychology but also for artificial intelligence, he said.
The research has potential implications for understanding dyslexia and other reading deficits, Henderson said.