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Human Neuroplasticity and Education

Pontifical Academy of Sciences, Scripta Varia 117, Vatican City 2011
www.pas.va/content/dam/accademia/pdf/sv117/sv117-dehaene.pdf

The Massive Impact of Literacy
on the Brain and its Consequences
for Education
Stanislas Dehaene

Introduction
It was once claimed that the bridge from brain research to education
was ‘a bridge too far’ (Bruer, 1997). In the past decade, however, important
progress has been made in bridging this gap, taking advantage of the improved ability to image the human brain in adults and children, in experimental paradigms relevant to learning and education. I would like to argue
that, in fact, considerable cognitive neuroscience knowledge is already
highly relevant to education. Our understanding of learning algorithms, including the known importance of active prediction, prediction error, or
sleep consolidation, is directly relevant to the design of efficient learning
environments, at school or through educational games. Our comprehension
of the role of attention and reward (and their flip sides, the negative effects
of distraction and punishment), or of the switch from explicit to implicit
learning, are equally important generic findings that already affect much
thinking in education.
Above all, human cognitive neuroscience has made enormous strides in
understanding the specific cerebral circuits underlying particular domains of
education, such as mathematics, reading and second-language acquisition.The
human brain can be seen as a collection of evolved devices, inherited from
our evolutionary history, and that address specific problems such as navigating
in space and remembering locations, representing time, acquiring a sense of
number for concrete sets, recognizing objects and faces, representing sounds
and particularly the speech sounds typical of our species, and so on. I have
argued that, through education, we take advantage of these pre-existing representations and recycle them towards novel uses, particularly because we are
the only species capable of attaching arbitrary symbols to these representations
and tying them together into elaborate symbol systems (Dehaene, 1977/2011,
2005, 2009; Dehaene & Cohen, 2007). Deficient operation of these specialized subsystems, or of the ability to attach symbols to them, can explain some
developmental deficits such as dyscalculia, dyslexia, or dyspraxia.
In the present chapter, I briefly recapitulate how the recycling theory
plays out in the domain of reading acquisition. I focus on recent discoveries

Human Neuroplasticity and Education

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these are spoken-language areas. Oppenheim. Instead. and how these results illuminate the specific hurdles that children face as they learn to read. The cerebral mechanisms of adult reading What is reading? It is a wonderful cultural invention that allows us to hold ‘a conversation with the deceased’. we learn to access our knowledge of spoken language through a novel modality. in the hope that they actively collaborate towards the development of innovative teaching devices. and to use these results to think about their consequences for education. and reading provides access to them 20 Human Neuroplasticity and Education .Thus. one that was never anticipated by evolution: vision. 2009). we transform some of the visual structures of our brain in order to turn them into a specialized interface between vision and language. Rizzi. During reading acquisition. By learning to read. I am also convinced that neuro-education research should not be performed solely in brain imaging labs. a way to ‘listen to the dead with my eyes’ (Francisco de Quevedo). we have to recycle existing brain systems for this novel use. it is a shame that teachers still have a better idea of how their car works than of the inner functioning of their pupils’ brains! Thus. clay or paper. and until recently concerned a small minority of humans. my goal here is to summarize neuroimaging results on reading in an accessible manner. Dehaene. Indeed. & Pallier. I am convinced that empowering teachers with the appropriate knowledge of the principles of human neuroplasticity and learning will lead to better classroom practices. A large set of regions of the left hemisphere is identically activated when we read a sentence and when we listen to it (Devauchelle. another goal of this chapter is to stir communication between cognitive neuroscientists and educators. the human genome cannot contain any instructions for reading-specific brain circuits. Cognitive neuroimaging in literate adults has clarified how reading operates at the cortical level. Rather. All of these regions are thus not unique to reading. from the temporal pole to the posterior temporal-parietal junction. Writing is a remarkably clever encryption device by which we turn spoken language into a rich visual texture of marks on stone. Experimentation in schools is indispensable to validate and expand the hypotheses that we form about optimal education practices. Because reading is an extremely recent invention in evolutionary terms.STANISLAS DEHAENE that demonstrate how the brain is changed by learning to read. most prominently the entire length of the superior temporal sulcus. as well as distinct regions of the left inferior frontal lobe.This a-modal language network comprises temporal-lobe regions. Reading corresponds to the decryption of this texture.

Indeed. morphological. et al. this region becomes functionally specialized for reading in a specific script. & McCarthy. et al..THE MASSIVE IMPACT OF LITERACY ON THE BRAIN AND ITS CONSEQUENCES FOR EDUCATION through vision. the VWFA has even been found to be invariant for printed versus handwritten words (Qiao. 2006). with literacy. 2002. 2000. It is always located at the same coordinates in the left lateral occipito-temporal sulcus. et al. but it also activates more to a known script (e. say. et al. it clearly plays an indispensable role in reading. 2005. et al. the VWFA is the main region that allows us to recognize a word like radio. Allison. Neuro-imaging studies of single-word reading have begun to clarify the localization and organization of this visual interface system. 2000). size. & Cohen. We now know that. Dehaene-Lambertz. Dehaene. Thus.. Visual words. 2011). 2004.. a selective inability to read (Déjerine. Human Neuroplasticity and Education 21 . Gore. Its localization is remarkably reproducible across individuals and even across cultures (Bolger. 2002). Asgari. its lesion systematically causes pure alexia. 1891. Gaillard. Jobard. Perfetti. & Tzourio-Mazoyer. 1996) or line drawings of objects (Szwed. when two-month-old babies listen to sentences in their mother tongue (Dehaene-Lambertz. Indeed. such as the relation between upper and lower-case letters of the Western alphabet: only this region recognizes the identity between. and location. Crivello. the words ‘rage’ and ‘RAGE’. when presented to adult readers. Poline.. et al. prosodic. their activation is already present. in a literate adult. regardless of its exact font. RADIO. et al. Le Clec’H. Dehaene. Not only does it activate more to written words than to other categories of visual knowledge. systematically activate a specific region of the left-hemispheric ventral visual cortex. is already in place. Dehaene.. 2010). within a few millimeters.. 2003). Furthermore. which my colleagues and I have termed the visual word form area (VWFA in short) (Cohen. such as faces (Puce. et al. & Schneider. Its response is strictly visual and pre-lexical: it responds to all sorts of strings of letters. et al. Remarkably. Recently. syntactic and semantic processing.. or radio. Cohen. with a left-hemispheric lateralization. these invariant processes are so automated that they are deployed non-consciously. 2002. Thus. & Hertz-Pannier. Dehaene-Lambertz. with its subcomponents of lexical. which requires an internalization of arbitrary reading conventions (Dehaene. this spoken language system. et al. When a child first enters primary school..They obviously reflect an ancient and probably evolved system responsible for spoken language acquisition. et al. What this child has to acquire is the visual interface into the language system. 2009)... 2006. 2007). it has become attuned to quite specific cultural properties of the learned script.. 2001).g. Hebrew in Hebrew readers) than to other unknown scripts (Baker. whether they form words or pseudowords devoid of any meaning such as ‘flinter’ (Dehaene. Le Bihan.

and small words (Glezer. the VWFA region gets selected as the primary area of learning because it possesses prior properties. in children. et al. Indeed. evidence that all writing systems of the world make use of the same elementary ‘alphabet’ of line configurations (Changizi. the hemispheric lateralization of the VWFA relates to the prior lateralization of spoken language processing. Sigman. Levy. Such high resolution is probably indispensable in order to read small print. 2009). Cai. in our literate culture. Pinel & Dehaene. et al. in the course of reading acquisition. inherited from primate evolution. 22 Human Neuroplasticity and Education . the region exactly symmetrical to the VWFA. The second property is a sensitivity to line configurations (Szwed. 2009). There is. Indeed. et al. 2007). the high-resolution center of the retina (Hasson. Liebenthal.. Lavidor. morphemes. These shapes may have been selected initially for their usefulness in object recognition – for instance a ‘T’ contour robustly signals that one object edge lies in front of another. & Vinckier. pairs of letters (bigrams). 1987). & Buchanan. 2010. 2004). the precise location of the visual word form area is probably determined by its proximity and tight connections to cortical areas for spoken language processing in the lateral temporal lobe. fMRI has now confirmed the existence of a tuning gradient with the VWFA (Vinckier. with successive responses to letters (Dehaene. 2011): this region is part of a chunk of bilateral cortex called the fusiform gyrus that reacts strongly whenever the image contains line junctions forming shapes like T. et al. bigrams (Binder..This model assumes that a hierarchy of occipito-temporal neurons become attuned to fragments of writing. 2006). My colleagues and I hypothesize that. Cohen. and small words (Dehaene. Y. 2005). Ibarrola. 2009). we recycled this ancient capacity by specifically selecting letter shapes that fit with this pre-existing cortical architecture (Dehaene. & Nazir. Brysbaert. 2007.. L.The first property is a preference for high-resolution shapes presented in the fovea. in the right hemisphere. & Malach. 2002). that make it especially appropriate for reading. Ye. Third.. indeed. 2005). & Shimojo.. et al. Paulignan. & Nazir. & Riesenhuber. Lehericy. Westbury. 2004). and piecing this information together provides view-point invariant information about 3-D shapes (Biederman. Behrmann. Medler. which is usually but not always in the left hemisphere (Cai. can take over when the original VWFA site is damnaged in early childhood (Cohen. Jiang. Most results to date appear compatible with a model of the neural architecture of visual word recognition called the ‘local combination detector’ (LCD) model (Dehaene. Brysbaert.STANISLAS DEHAENE My colleagues and I have proposed that. from line junctions to single letters. Zhang. finally. Hendler. F. etc. Paulignan. Interestingly. 2006).

This massively parallel architecture explains the speed and robustness of visual word recognition. & Willows. morphemes) before the whole word can be put back together and recognized. we wanted to make a whole-brain image of the changes induced by reading acquisition – not only in the visual word form area. et al. Stahl. for educators and teachers. Our results first confirmed that the VWFA is a major correlate of literacy. parallel. Second. 2010). however. we tested pure illiterates (10 Brazilian adults who did not have the possibility to attend school in childhood and could barely recognize individual letters).This inference is wrong. Educational evidence concurs in showing that teaching of grapheme-phoneme correspondences is the fastest. in response either to Human Neuroplasticity and Education 23 . this was a unique opportunity to test the recycling hypothesis by examining what stimuli activate the VWFA site in people who have not learned to read. both for pronunciation and for comprehension purposes (Ehri. millions of hierarchically organized neurons. Most importantly. 2001). ex-illiterates (21 unschooled Brazilian and Portuguese adults who attended adult literacy courses and reached variable levels of reading ability). letters. Third. each tuned to a specific local property (a letter. during adulthood. or a morpheme). but also within the temporal-lobe language system and also early in the occipital visual cortex. it creates an illusion of whole-word reading. collectively contribute to visual recognition. bigrams.To this aim. and literates (32 Brazilian and Portuguese adults of various socio-economic communities. Because reading is so fast and takes about the same time for short and long words. in the school years. most efficient way of making children efficient readers. Pegado. Nunes. Activation at the precise coordinates of the VWFA. some tightly matched to the other groups). First.. during reading of a single word. How literacy changes the brain We directly tested the VWFA’s role in literacy by comparing brain organization in illiterate versus literate adults (Dehaene. However.There were several purposes to this study. All the evidence to date suggests that visual words are being analyzed into their elementary components (strokes. or whether the adult brain was plastic enough for them to occur later on in life. and whether we gain but also lose some functionality at this site as we learn to read. some have assumed that the overall whole-word shape is being used for recognition.THE MASSIVE IMPACT OF LITERACY ON THE BRAIN AND ITS CONSEQUENCES FOR EDUCATION The current thinking is that. and efficient as to seem almost instantaneous (it actually takes about one fifth of a second). we wondered whether these brain changes needed to occur at an early age. a bigram. and that we should therefore teach whole-word reading rather than by letter-tosound decoding. this decomposition is so fast.

objects and checkerboard patterns. not vertical ones. In excellent agreement with the recycling hypothesis. the horizontal part of the visual field where alphabetic words always appear in Western culture. 2011).Vatican –> atican) (Morais. Dehaene. Alegria. Because that region has been associated with a phonological code (e. predictive of about half of the variance in reading speed across participants. & Dupoux. in an fMRI study of four-year-olds. Pallier.The ability to consciously represent the phoneme as the smallest relevant unit of speech is the result of alphabetization. & Pelphrey. even the primary visual cortex (area V1) increased its activation only in response to horizontal checkerboards.e. we observed a small but significant decrease in responses to these non-reading categories. A massive enhancement of the response to letter strings was seen in this region.g. Jacquemot. a major correlate of literacy. There. in illiterate participants? We saw a strong response to faces. Illiterate adults have long been known to be unable to consciously detect or manipulate phonemes in tasks such as dropping the first phoneme of a word (e. Cary.The left planum temporale may be a 24 Human Neuroplasticity and Education . 2003). LeBihan. activation to spoken language changed with literacy: it nearly doubled in good readers compared to illiterates.g. The posterior occipital cortex showed a globally increased response to all contrasted black-and-white pictures in our study. Similarly. and that reading acquisition must compete with pre-existing categories in the visual cortex. Indeed. at a site called the planum temporale.We interpret this finding as showing that expertise in reading refines the precision of visual coding. As reading performance increased. with increasing literacy. we found that the visual changes due to literacy extended much more broadly than expected in the visual cortex. pp. what activates this region prior to reading. way beyond the VWFA. (Cantlon. In fact. activation to faces was increasingly displaced to the right-hemispheric fusiform gyrus. We could now ask. Dehaene. precisely for those regions of the retina that are useful for reading. Both observations suggest that there is a competition for cortical space. 237-238). & Bertelson. we believe that it relates to the acquisition of phonemic awareness.STANISLAS DEHAENE written sentences or to individual pseudowords. was the main correlate of reading performance (see Figures 1 and 2. 1979). Cantlon et al. Pinel. particularly faces. i.We literally ‘make room’ for reading on the surface of the cortex. found that performance in identifying digits or letters was correlated with a decrease in the responses to faces in the left lateral fusiform gyrus. A third type of change was seen in the superior temporal lobe. indicating that this area specializes for visual object and face recognition before committing to visual word recognition. suggesting that literacy refines visual coding at an early level. by shifting the boundaries of other nearby regions.

et al. not just within the visual word form area. A longitudinal study of kindergarten children supports this conclusion (Brem.Thus. suffice to cause an enhanced response to letter strings relative to falsefonts in the VWFA. Li. Observing how the brain is changed does not lead to a direct prescription of the best education method. 2004. whenever it is useful for them to activate an orthographic code (Cohen. & Dehaene. This bidirectional dialogue. but also by top-down factors coming from the target phonological code (Goswami & Ziegler. even a small amount of literacy training changes the brain. good readers can optionally activate their VWFA from a purely spoken language input. we were able to demonstrate that these systems are highly plastic: virtually all of the above changes were visible.. 2010. Indeed. the comparison of literate and illiterate brains emphasizes the degree to which reading acquisition changes the brain. 2004. Goebel. an effect which is reduced or absent in dyslexic subjects (Blau.THE MASSIVE IMPACT OF LITERACY ON THE BRAIN AND ITS CONSEQUENCES FOR EDUCATION crucial target of reading acquisition. Zevin. training adults to recognize a new script leads to massive changes in the VWFA after a few training sessions (Hashimoto & Sakai. Nevertheless. 2010). the VWFA response is shaped not only by bottom-up statistics of the visual input. Similarly. these readinginduced changes only occur with a systematic attention to the correspondences between print and speech sounds. Jobert. By studying the data from the ex-illiterate adults. Interestingly. Learning to read requires a bidirectional dialogue in the brain. et al.. Maurer. 2004). Dehaene. with a strong top-down component. Pegado. 2010. et al. Li. & McCandliss. this cortical site is sensitive to the congruity between a speech sound and a simultaneously presented visual letter (van Atteveldt. 2006). Desroches. et al. but also earlier in the visual system and later on in the phonological system.. & McCandliss. between the visual areas coding for letter strings and the auditory areas coding for the phonological segments of speech. Hu. Maurer. 2010): eight weeks of training with the GraphoGame. 2010). et al. Overall. a computerized grapheme-phoneme training program. Le Bihan. the point where graphemic knowledge extracted from ventral visual areas first contacts phonemic representations of spoken language. then. can now be directly visualized by neuroimaging techniques: even in the absence of any visual input. Formisano. 2010) (see Figure 2). Yoncheva.Thus. Yoncheva. thus permitting grapheme-to-phoneme conversion. Pegado. in partial form. I Human Neuroplasticity and Education 25 . & Liu. 2010. Consequences for education We should be careful about transposing these brain results directly to the education domain. Song. Blau. 2010). & Blomert.. in the ex-illiterate adults who learned to read during adulthood (Dehaene..

and that each of these letters or groups of letters (graphemes) correspond to a speech sound or phoneme. see Dehaene. is not available to illiterates. that letters should be decoded from left to right. and that by changing their spatial order. because they are expert readers and have a fully automated and non-conscious reading system. at the phonological and at the visual level. Reading is not a natural task. and is the result of alphabetization. is a non-trivial idea. that graphemes map onto to phonemes. Likewise. Graphemephoneme correspondences must be systematically taught. before children master the skill of reading. letters and groups of letters such as bigrams and morphemes are the units of recognition. 2009). Rather. all aspects of the alphabetic code must be patiently explained to children: that words are made of letters or graphemes. letters. my colleagues and I are attempting to draft a series of cognitive principles that are at work in reading acquisition and that should be taken into consideration by any teaching method. analysis of how reading operates at the brain level provides no support for the notion that words are recognized globally by their overall shape or contour. Thus. that there is the same sound at the beginning of ‘rat’. 2001). are not at all obvious for young children. Just like a mechanic can diagnose an engine problem by visualizing the engine’s operation.. experiments with adults taught to read the same novel script with a whole-word versus 26 Human Neuroplasticity and Education . educators who can visualize how the child’s brain works will. In brief. the notion that written words are composed of elementary objects. conceive better ways of teaching. Several converging elements support this conclusion (for a longer development. Brain-imaging experiments lead to a clearer view of the amount of cortical transformation which is required for reading acquisition. in young children (Ehri. in the middle of ‘brat’. First. and against a whole-word or whole-language approach. instead of designing a specific brain-based ‘method’ for teaching reading. that the spatial left-to-right organization corresponds to the temporal order in which they are uttered. Second.With this idea in mind. The very notion that phonemes exist. spontaneously. It should be clear that I am advocating here a strong ‘phonics’ approach to teaching. and children are not biologically prepared to it by evolution (unlike spoken language acquisition). Massive changes are needed. including reading comprehension. one can compose new syllables and words. one by one: the amount of such teaching is the best predictor of reading performance. teachers must be aware that many of the reading steps that they take for granted. et al.STANISLAS DEHAENE strongly believe that educators will strongly benefit from a better understanding of what is going on in their pupils’ brains as they learn to read. and at the end of ‘car’.

showed brain changes in the homolog region of the right hemisphere. 2000. and spellings inherited from Greek and Roman etymologies (e. roots. Matthews. 2003. Blau. 2006). et al. they expand their brain activation in the VWFA and the precentral cortex relative to Italian readers (Paulesu. 2003).THE MASSIVE IMPACT OF LITERACY ON THE BRAIN AND ITS CONSEQUENCES FOR EDUCATION grapheme-phoneme approach show dramatic differences (Yoncheva. which is a biological and partially genetic anomaly.. et al.Thus. A good reading course should not stop at the simplest grapheme-phoneme correspondences: morphology. Furthermore. clearly not the normal circuit for expert reading. et al. the understanding of prefixes. finally. Another important observation for education is that the speed of reading acquisition varies dramatically with the regularity of grapheme-phoneme relations. Aro...‘though’ versus ‘tough’) and are disambiguated only by lexical context. Seymour.g. They should also pay attention to the complexity of syllables and start with the simpler consonant-vowel structures before moving on to more complex multiconsonant clusters. children acquire reading in a few months. The whole-word approach will certainly not create dyslexia. irregular spellings. Jamison. our growing understanding of how the brain is recycled for reading has led to a clarification of another mysterious phenomenon that occurs during childhood: mirror reading and mirror writing. teachers should be aware of the spelling irregularities in the language that they are teaching. and grammatical endings is equally important in the brain of expert readers (Devlin..g. English and French lie on the other end of the scale of alphabetic transparency: they are highly irregular systems in which exceptions abound (e.They should prepare a rational progression. Adults whose attention was drawn to the global shape of words. starting with the more regular and more frequent grapheme-phoneme correspondence. & Gonnerman. such that knowledge of the grapheme-phoneme correspondences suffices to read essentially all words. to do so. et al. Neuroimaging experiments show that. In Italy and Germany. Ziegler & Goswami. by whole-word training. simply because the writing is highly regular. Many young readers confuse mirror letters such as p and q or b and d. 2000). 2010): only the grapheme-phoneme group generalizes to novel word and trains the left-hemispheric VWFA. and ending with the exceptions. Mute letters. but it does lead to avoidable delays in reading acquisition. with frequent repetition. & Erskine. these theoretical and laboratory-based arguments converge with school-based studies that prove the inferiority of the whole-word approach in bringing about fast improvements in reading acquisition. ‘ph’) should all be addressed across the years. 2004). they Human Neuroplasticity and Education 27 .Third. Recently. Behavioral research shows that English learners have to dedicate at least two more years of training before they read at the same level as Italian children (Seymour. which changes across languages (Paulesu. suffixes.

I merely hope that. Cohen. Logothetis. This peculiar behavior can be explained by considering that the function of the ventral visual cortex. Interestingly. faces and scenes. prior to reading. A true science of reading is emerging. & Bara. which is seen in all children and illiterate subjects. and should take the time to explain why b and d are distinct letters corresponding to distinct phonemes (it is particularly unfortunate that these phonemes are quite similar and easily confused). 2010. cognitive neuroscience studies of reading can help spread the word and eventually lead to a more systematic and rational approach to reading education. et al. the left and right views of a natural object are mirror images of each other. Gentaz. and it is useful to generalize across them and treat them as the same object.Teachers should therefore be aware of the specific difficulty posed by mirror letters. Single-cell recordings in monkeys show that this principle is deeply embedded in the visual system: many neurons in the occipito-temporal visual cortex fire identically to the left and right views of the same object or face (Freiwald & Tsao.. 2010. perhaps because it helps store view-specific memories of the letters and their corresponding phonemes (Fredembach. In the future. 2009. that young children confuse b and d: they are trying to learn to read with precisely the brain area that confuses left and right of images! Mirror confusion is a normal property of the visual system. & Dehaene. 2003). in the human brain.STANISLAS DEHAENE occasionally write in mirror form. Nakamura. de Boisferon. Rollenhagen & Olson. is the invariant recognition of objects. & Gentaz. In the natural world. from right to left. very few objects have a distinct identity for left and right views. 1995. et al. Using neuroimaging. No wonder. & Poggio. teaching the gestures of writing can improve reading. & Fischer. Nakamura. 2011). 28 Human Neuroplasticity and Education . and how they can be harnessed to facilitate learning in the classroom. and which disappears for letters and geometric symbols when literacy sets in (Cornell. quite competently and without seemingly noticing their error. 2000). 2007). 2010). All of the above ideas are already applied in many schools. In most cases. my colleagues and I have shown that. Colé. Rose. by bringing to light their cerebral foundations. Only its prolongation in late childhood is a sign of dyslexia (Lachmann & van Leeuwen. Schneps. Pauls.. and did not await the advent of cognitive neuroscience. Kolinsky. new experiments. it is precisely the VWFA which is the dominant site for this mirror-image invariance (Dehaene. involving a tight collaboration between scientists and educators. 2007. 1985. Pegado. should lead to an even clearer picture of the learning algorithms used by the brain. then.

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TABLES • DEHAENE Figure 1. Overview of the brain systems for reading. Pegado. arising from dorsal parietal cortex. illustrates the major left-hemisphere regions involved in expert reading. Developing this pathway is an essential goal of reading acquisition. These regions contribute to a grapheme-to-phoneme conversion route. From there.. a left-to-right serial orientation of attention to the sequence. 2009). the written word projected onto the retina first reaches the occipital visual cortex. The insets show two brain regions where activation is dramatically increased in literate relative to illiterate adults (redrawn from data in Dehaene. but for long or hard-to-read words. et al. may be needed. The identified visual string is then transmitted to distinct areas involves in meaning and in pronunciation (auditory phonology and articulatory). taken from (Dehaene. Human Neuroplasticity and Education 237 . 2010): the visual word form area (bottom) and the planum temporale (top). The central diagram. Most words are identified quickly and effortlessly. showing two major sites of change induced by literacy. During reading. in parallel. it is channeled to the left-hemisphere visual word form area (VWFA). which encodes the visual orthography of the string: the sequence of letters and their relations.

even in unschooled ex-illiterate adults who learned to read during adulthood. Overview of changes induced by learning to read in adults. Literacy increases activation in the visual word form area (VWFA. Literacy also allows the entire left-hemisphere network of language areas to be activated through the visual modality. The image shows all the regions where activation increased with reading performance.. Pegado. 238 Human Neuroplasticity and Education .TABLES • DEHAENE Figure 2. et al. inset graph). in response to the visual presentation of written sentences (redrawn from data in Dehaene. 2010).