Did Literacy Steal Brain Power From Other Functions?

Warning: Reading this may cause parts of your brain to become powerless. From Ars Technica:

The human brain contains many regions that are specialized for processing specific decisions and sensory inputs. Many of these are shared with our fellow mammals (and, in some cases, all vertebrates), suggesting that they are evolutionarily ancient specializations. But innovations like writing have only been around for a few thousand years, a time span that’s too short relative to human generations to allow for this sort of large evolutionary change. In the absence of specialized capabilities, how has it become possible for such large portions of the population to become literate?

The authors of a paper that will be released by Science today suggest two possible alternatives to explain this widespread literacy. Either reading is similar enough to something that our brains could already do that it’s processed by existing structures, or literacy has “stolen” areas of the brain that used to be involved in other functions. (A combination of the two is also possible.) In the new paper, they use functional MRI imaging of brain activity to figure out just what literacy does to the brain, and discover that literacy does take over some new areas of the brain, with mixed effects on other areas of cognition.

Continues at Ars Technica

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  • Dan Mcelreavy

    Modern reading and writing is a simple evolutionary continuation of tracking. Our ancestors tracked everything from toads, mice, bison, and each other, to glaciers, seasons, stars, planets, etc.. They tracked not only for survival, but just as we read for entertainment and higher education. They also used various internets that cannot possibly be explained in this comment. 40,000 years ago it was common to surf the World Wide Web of Tracks and Trails to discover whatever one was curious about.

    In fact, a great prophecy, written in tracks, fossilized and preserved to this day can be discovered here:

    http://www.scribd.com/doc/27092902/The-Prophet-Walker-Part-I-The-Pathways#

    Be aware; you have entered a Mythic Reality.

    • I can spell!

      Be aware, your tinfoil hat has worked its way loose.

  • Dan Mcelreavy

    Modern reading and writing is a simple evolutionary continuation of tracking. Our ancestors tracked everything from toads, mice, bison, and each other, to glaciers, seasons, stars, planets, etc.. They tracked not only for survival, but just as we read for entertainment and higher education. They also used various internets that cannot possibly be explained in this comment. 40,000 years ago it was common to surf the World Wide Web of Tracks and Trails to discover whatever one was curious about.

    In fact, a great prophecy, written in tracks, fossilized and preserved to this day can be discovered here:

    http://www.scribd.com/doc/27092902/The-Prophet-Walker-Part-I-The-Pathways#

    Be aware; you have entered a Mythic Reality.

  • Dave26027

    To test this theory we must locate a person who cannot read and write then ask his opinion. I nominate George Busch.

  • Dave26027

    To test this theory we must locate a person who cannot read and write then ask his opinion. I nominate George Busch.

    • I can spell!

      Might have worked better if you could have actually spelled his name right,

  • Ironaddict06

    I’d say part of the answer is yes, but not because Literacy steals power from other parts of the brain, but because Literacy uses the Left side of the brain. I’d argue that western society emphasize teaching that deals with the Left side of the brain, and neglects the Right side of the brain.

  • Ironaddict06

    I’d say part of the answer is yes, but not because Literacy steals power from other parts of the brain, but because Literacy uses the Left side of the brain. I’d argue that western society emphasize teaching that deals with the Left side of the brain, and neglects the Right side of the brain.

  • I can spell!

    Might have worked better if you could have actually spelled his name right,

  • I can spell!

    Be aware, your tinfoil hat has worked its way loose.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1841537147 Raniel Bambasi

    I think this conclusion is pretty weak. Reading is based on the memorization of a certain set of characters/symbols and how they’re supposed to be arranged based on what that specific type of literature is used for. This can easily have grown from some primal instinct.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1841537147 Raniel Bambasi

    I think this conclusion is pretty weak. Reading is based on the memorization of a certain set of characters/symbols and how they’re supposed to be arranged based on what that specific type of literature is used for. This can easily have grown from some primal instinct.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1841537147 Raniel Bambasi

    I think this conclusion is pretty weak. Reading is based on the memorization of a certain set of characters/symbols and how they’re supposed to be arranged based on what that specific type of literature is used for. This can easily have grown from some primal instinct.

  • Katesisco

    Have just been reading about brain maps ala Merzenich & how this brain science is a dejavu from a hundred years ago; why ——- well, it doesn’t lend itself to commercialization & marketing. His point being the brain can be retasked if 1) frequent 2) short 3) focused sessions take place. Stroke recovery, autistic reduction, etc.

    The most important finding of late is that the flora of Chernobyl is producing 5% more protein—-why, you ask—-well, it is using the protein to defend itself against radiation! Once the radiation is no longer a problem, what would you use the extra protein for? Say, as in the case of early humans? Maybe a bigger brain?

  • Katesisco

    Have just been reading about brain maps ala Merzenich & how this brain science is a dejavu from a hundred years ago; why ——- well, it doesn’t lend itself to commercialization & marketing. His point being the brain can be retasked if 1) frequent 2) short 3) focused sessions take place. Stroke recovery, autistic reduction, etc.

    The most important finding of late is that the flora of Chernobyl is producing 5% more protein—-why, you ask—-well, it is using the protein to defend itself against radiation! Once the radiation is no longer a problem, what would you use the extra protein for? Say, as in the case of early humans? Maybe a bigger brain?