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Brain doesn't need vision at all in order to 'read' material
Date:2/22/2011

ty in eight people who had been blind since birth while they read Braille words or nonsense Braille. If the brain were organized around processing sensory information, one might expect that Braille reading would depend on regions dedicated to processing tactile information, Amedi explained. If instead the brain is task-oriented, you'd expect to find the peak of activity across the entire brain in the VWFA, right where it occurs in sighted readers, and that is exactly what the researchers saw.

Further comparison of brain activity in the blind and sighted readers showed that the patterns in the VWFA were indistinguishable between the two.

"The main functional properties of the VWFA as identified in sighted are present as well in the blind, and are thus independent of the sensory-modality of reading, and even more surprisingly do not require any visual experience," the researchers wrote. "To the best of our judgment, this provides the strongest support so far for the metamodal theory of brain function," which suggests that brain regions are defined by the computations they perform. "Hence, the VWFA should also be referred to as the tangible word-form area, or more generally as the (metamodal) word-form area."

The researchers suggest that the VWFA is a multisensory integration area that binds simple features into more elaborate shape descriptions, making it ideal for the relatively new task of reading.

"Its specific anatomical location and strong connectivity to language areas enable it to bridge a high-level perceptual word representation and language-related components of reading," they said. "It is therefore the most suitable region to be taken over during reading acquisition, even when reading is acquired via touch without prior visual experience."

Amedi said he and his research associates plan to examine brain activity as people learn to read Braille for the first time in order to find out how rapidly this takeover happ
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Contact: Jerry Barach
jerryb@savion.huji.ac.il
972-258-82904
The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Source:Eurekalert  

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