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We may have ‘recycled’ an important area of ​​the brain when humans learned to read



Despite our humankind’s long evolutionary history, humans can only read and write for a few thousand years. New research suggests we may have ‘recycle’ an important area of ​​the brain to help us begin to understand written words.

In tests on macaque rhesus monkeys, scientists have shown that an area called the lower temporal cortex (IT) in primates’ brains has the ability to provide the essential information we need to turn strings of letters into something more meaningful.

That neurological behavior suggests that, rather than developing new brain regions dedicated to reading, humans could have repositioned those regions of the brain while developing the ability to recognize words as they were written ̵

1; what is called image processing.

Neuroscientist James DiCarlo from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) said: “This work opens up a potential connection between our rapidly growing understanding of the neurological mechanisms of the vision processing. sensory and an important behavior of primates – human reading ability “.

Gyroscope lower than Gray726The lower temporal cortex, or gyrus, is yellow in color. (Gray726 / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain)

The idea of ​​brain coiling to process words has been suggested previously. DiCarlo and his colleagues previously studied the role of the IT cortex in responding to objects, including the face, using functional magnetic resonance imaging.

They could also build on previous studies by several similar researchers, looking at how parts of the lower temporal cortex become highly specialized tools for recognizing words as we learn to read. However, not much is known currently about how this works at the neural level.

In the new experiments, the researchers tracked about 500 different nerve positions using implanted electrodes, when the animals were shown about 2,000 words and non-magnetic. These data are fed into a computer model called a linear classifier, which is then trained to use the measured operation to make intelligent guesswork about the nature of each letter string. .

“The effect of this approach is that you don’t need to train the animals to do anything,” says neuroscientist Rishi Rajalingham from MIT. “What you do is just record these neural activity patterns when you flash an image in front of the animal.”

The model shows that brain activity is actually capable of providing the information a primates need to perform primary tasks, including interpreting images to distinguish between word and non-word. In fact, the linear classifier could use this neural output to tell that difference with an accuracy of about 70%, comparable to a 2012 study of trained baboons. to do the same thing.

Non-human primates, including monkeys, exhibit many of the same behaviors and brain functions as we do, and research shows that there is not too much of a difference between how monkeys This view from and how humans do it.

Research also supports the idea that humans used the evolutionary mechanisms of the inferior temporal cortex and then replaced them to create consistent meanings of words and symbols – although research is still needed. save more to know for sure.

These results suggest that the IT cortex of untrained primates could serve as a precursor to visual processing, suggesting that readability in People dependent on recycling brain networks have developed for other visual functions, ”the researchers concluded.

The research has been published in Natural media.


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