When we read, our brains picture a word, rather than seeing a group of letters to be decoded.
Children learn to “sound out” letters when reading, as a way to put together an entire word. But adults breeze through sentences without so much effort, yet understand the meaning of each word.
According to a research team at Georgetown University Medical Center, the neurons in the adult brain respond to complete words, and not individual letters or pieces of words. Once we become familiar with words, the visual part of the brain sees the word as a complete picture.
Researchers say that this shows how the brain works, and offers special insigt for people with reading disabilities.
The study authors Dr. Maximilian Riesenhuber and Dr. Laurie Glezer asked 25 adult subjects to learn 150 nonsense words. The brains of the volunteer subjects were scanned before and after the training using MRI-rapid adaptation, tracking blain plasticity as it happens. They could then see the effect of the changes as they occurred when the subjects learned the nonsense words.