The brain holds a “visual dictionary” of words we have read, allowing quick recognition without sounding out words each time we see them, a new study finds.
The research, presented today (Nov. 14) at the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience in Washington, D.C., could be useful for understanding the causes of reading disorders such as dyslexia, according to the researchers. The study reveals how the brain works with words, which have both a visual, written component, and a sound-based phonology component.
“One camp of neuroscientists believes that we access both the phonology and the visual perception of a word as we read it, and that the area or areas of the brain that do one, also do the other,” study leader Laurie Glezer, a postdoctoral researcher at Georgetown University Medical Center, said in a statement. “But our study proves this isn’t the case.”
Instead, Glezer said, the brain dispenses of sound-based processing when reading and focuses on what words look like on paper.