Scripted Brains: Learning to read evokes hemispheric trade-off

12:56pm, May 21, 2003

It seems that the brain takes sides in promoting the skills necessary for proficient reading.

The extended process of learning to read elicits a hemispheric trade-off in which left-brain structures get increasingly tuned to reading-specific tasks, a new study finds. Meanwhile, the right brain's more general contributions to deciphering text grow weaker.

From childhood through adolescence, budding readers display gradually intensifying neural activity in parts of the brain's left hemisphere that discern relationships between sounds and letters, say neuroscientist Guinevere Eden of Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., and her coworkers. During this same period, activity declines in right-brain areas that supply novice readers with word-related visual knowledge, the scientists report in an upcoming Nature Neuroscience.

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