The adult brain is quite flexible says a new study by researchers at the Max Planck Institute For Psycholinguistic in the Netherlands.
The research was conducted in collaboration with the centre for bio-medical research, Lucknow and the university of Hyderabad.
The researchers studied changes in the brain of 30 illiterate women between 18-30 years from villages after they received daily lessons in hindi for 6 months.
30 illiterate women given no training and a group comprising literate women who had received no formal education.
All three groups were made to undergo a restingstate functional MRI, used to analyse the functional connectivity in the human brain, at the outset.
A comparison of the results showed changes in the brain, in the thalamus and brainstem after the women learned to read and write.
” This growth of knowledge is remarkable,” said project leader Falk Huettig, of the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics.
“Reading is such a new ability in human evolutionary history that the existence of a ‘reading area’ could not be specified in our genes. A kind of recycling process has to take place in the brain while learning to read: Areas evolved for the recognition of complex objects, such as faces, become engaged in translating letters into language. Some regions of our visual system thereby turn into interfaces between the visual and language systems,” ‘Science-Daily’ explained in its report on the study.
“In contrast to previous assumptions, the learning process leads to a reorganisation that extends to deep brain structures in the thalamus and the brainstem. The relatively young phenomenon of human writing therefore changes brain regions that are very old in evolutionary terms and already core parts of mice and other mammalian brains,” the website reported.
Michael Skeide, scientific researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences (MPI CBS) in Leipzig said
“We observed that the socalled colliculi superiores, a part of the brainstem, and the pulvinar, located in the thalamus, adapt the timing of their activity patterns to those of the visual cortex,”
Asked why the study was conducted on an all-women group, Uttam Kumar, assistant professor at the Centre for Bio-Medical Research’s MRI neuro-imaging unit, said,
“That was done to eliminate any controversy around differences in the learning pattern of men and women and to ensure uniformity in results.”