The acquisition of literacy transforms the human brain. By reviewing studies of illiterate subjects, we propose specific hypotheses on how the functions of core brain systems are partially reoriented or 'recycled' when learning to read. Literacy acquisition improves early visual processing and reorganizes the ventral occipito-temporal pathway: responses to written characters are increased in the left occipito-temporal sulcus, whereas responses to faces shift towards the right hemisphere. Literacy also modifies phonological coding and strengthens the functional and anatomical link between phonemic and graphemic representations. Literacy acquisition therefore provides a remarkable example of how the brain reorganizes to accommodate a novel cultural skill.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution
Open Access articles citing this article.
Scientific Reports Open Access 27 July 2023
Current Psychology Open Access 24 July 2023
Scientific Reports Open Access 06 July 2023
Subscribe to this journal
Receive 12 print issues and online access
$189.00 per year
only $15.75 per issue
Rent or buy this article
Prices vary by article type
Prices may be subject to local taxes which are calculated during checkout
Lincoln, A. Discoveries and Inventions: A Lecture by Abraham Lincoln Delivered in 1860 (Kessinger Publishing, 2004).
Ong, W. Orality and Literacy: 30th Anniversary Edition (Routledge, 2012).
Dehaene, S. & Cohen, L. The unique role of the visual word form area in reading. Trends Cogn. Sci. 15, 254–262 (2011).
Carreiras, M., Armstrong, B. C., Perea, M. & Frost, R. The what, when, where and how of visual word recognition. Trends Cogn. Sci. 18, 90–98 (2014).
Pugh, K. R. et al. The relationship between phonological and auditory processing and brain organization in beginning readers. Brain Lang. 125, 173–183 (2013).
Turkeltaub, P. E., Gareau, L., Flowers, D. L., Zeffiro, T. A. & Eden, G. F. Development of neural mechanisms for reading. Nature Neurosci. 6, 767–773 (2003).
New, B., Ferrand, L., Pallier, C. & Brysbaert, M. Reexamining the word length effect in visual word recognition: new evidence from the English Lexicon Project. Psychon Bull. Rev. 13, 45–52 (2006).
Dehaene, S. et al. How learning to read changes the cortical networks for vision and language. Science 330, 1359–1364 (2010).
Pegado, F. et al. Timing the impact of literacy on visual processing. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 111, E5233–E5242 (2014).
Carreiras, M. et al. An anatomical signature for literacy. Nature 461, 983–986 (2009).
Kolinsky, R. et al. Enantiomorphy through the looking-glass: literacy effects on mirror-image discrimination. J. Exp. Psychol. Gen. 140, 210–238 (2011).
Szwed, M., Ventura, P., Querido, L., Cohen, L. & Dehaene, S. Reading acquisition enhances an early visual process of contour integration. Dev. Sci. 15, 139–149 (2012).
Thiebaut de Schotten, M., Cohen, L., Amemiya, E., Braga, L. W. & Dehaene, S. Learning to read improves the structure of the arcuate fasciculus. Cereb. Cortex 24, 989–995 (2012).
Dehaene, S. & Cohen, L. Cultural recycling of cortical maps. Neuron 56, 384–398 (2007).
Nazir, T. A., Ben-Boutayab, N., Decoppet, N., Deutsch, A. & Frost, R. Reading habits, perceptual learning, and recognition of printed words. Brain Lang. 88, 294–311 (2004).
Li, W., Piech, V. & Gilbert, C. D. Perceptual learning and top-down influences in primary visual cortex. Nature Neurosci. 7, 651–657 (2004).
Li, W., Piech, V. & Gilbert, C. D. Learning to link visual contours. Neuron 57, 442–451 (2008).
Sigman, M. et al. Top-down reorganization of activity in the visual pathway after learning a shape identification task. Neuron 46, 823–835 (2005).
Legge, G. E. & Bigelow, C. A. Does print size matter for reading? A review of findings from vision science and typography. J. Vis. 11, 8 (2011).
Szwed, M. et al. Specialization for written words over objects in the visual cortex. NeuroImage 56, 330–344 (2011).
Szwed, M., Qiao, E., Jobert, A., Dehaene, S. & Cohen, L. Effects of literacy in early visual and occipitotemporal areas of Chinese and French readers. J. Cogn. Neurosci. 26, 459–475 (2014).
Ventura, P. et al. Literacy acquisition reduces the influence of automatic holistic processing of faces and houses. Neurosci. Lett. 554, 105–109 (2013).
Duñabeitia, J. A., Orihuela, K. & Carreiras, M. Orthographic coding in illiterates and literates. Psychol. Sci. 25, 1275–1280 (2014).
Bolger, D. J., Perfetti, C. A. & Schneider, W. Cross-cultural effect on the brain revisited: universal structures plus writing system variation. Hum. Brain Mapp. 25, 92–104 (2005).
Hasson, U., Levy, I., Behrmann, M., Hendler, T. & Malach, R. Eccentricity bias as an organizing principle for human high-order object areas. Neuron 34, 479–490 (2002).
Cohen, L. et al. The visual word form area: spatial and temporal characterization of an initial stage of reading in normal subjects and posterior split-brain patients. Brain 123, 291–307 (2000).
Dehaene, S. et al. The visual word form area: a prelexical representation of visual words in the fusiform gyrus. Neuroreport 13, 321–325 (2002).
Baker, C. I. et al. Visual word processing and experiential origins of functional selectivity in human extrastriate cortex. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 104, 9087–9092 (2007).
Brem, S. et al. An electrophysiological study of print processing in kindergarten: the contribution of the visual n1 as a predictor of reading outcome. Dev. Neuropsychol. 38, 567–594 (2013).
Maurer, U., Brem, S., Bucher, K. & Brandeis, D. Emerging neurophysiological specialization for letter strings. J. Cogn Neurosci. 17, 1532–1552 (2005).
Monzalvo, K., Fluss, J., Billard, C., Dehaene, S. & Dehaene-Lambertz, G. Cortical networks for vision and language in dyslexic and normal children of variable socio-economic status. NeuroImage 61, 258–274 (2012).
Monzalvo, K. Etude chez l'enfant normal et dyslexique de l'impact sur les réseaux corticaux et linguistiques d'une activité culturelle: la lecture. Thesis, Univ. Paris, (2011).
Brem, S. et al. Brain sensitivity to print emerges when children learn letter-speech sound correspondences. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 107, 7939–7944 (2010).
Hashimoto, R. & Sakai, K. L. Learning letters in adulthood: direct visualization of cortical plasticity for forming a new link between orthography and phonology. Neuron 42, 311–322 (2004).
Perrone-Bertolotti, M. et al. Turning visual shapes into sounds: early stages of reading acquisition revealed in the ventral occipitotemporal cortex. NeuroImage 90, 298–307 (2014).
Xue, G., Chen, C., Jin, Z. & Dong, Q. Language experience shapes fusiform activation when processing a logographic artificial language: an fMRI training study. NeuroImage 31, 1315–1326 (2006).
Mei, L. et al. Orthographic transparency modulates the functional asymmetry in the fusiform cortex: an artificial language training study. Brain Lang. 125, 165–172 (2013).
Dehaene, S. et al. Cerebral mechanisms of word masking and unconscious repetition priming. Nature Neurosci. 4, 752–758 (2001).
Price, C. J. & Devlin, J. T. The interactive account of ventral occipitotemporal contributions to reading. Trends Cogn. Sci. 15, 246–253 (2011).
Freiwald, W. A. & Tsao, D. Y. Functional compartmentalization and viewpoint generalization within the macaque face-processing system. Science 330, 845–851 (2010).
Dehaene, S., Cohen, L., Sigman, M. & Vinckier, F. The neural code for written words: a proposal. Trends Cogn. Sci. 9, 335–341 (2005).
Vinckier, F. et al. Hierarchical coding of letter strings in the ventral stream: dissecting the inner organization of the visual word-form system. Neuron 55, 143–156 (2007).
Thesen, T. et al. Sequential then interactive processing of letters and words in the left fusiform gyrus. Nature Commun. 3, 1284 (2012).
Dehaene, S. et al. Letter binding and invariant recognition of masked words: behavioral and neuroimaging evidence. Psychol. Sci. 15, 307–313 (2004).
Binder, J. R., Medler, D. A., Westbury, C. F., Liebenthal, E. & Buchanan, L. Tuning of the human left fusiform gyrus to sublexical orthographic structure. NeuroImage 33, 739–748 (2006).
Glezer, L. S., Jiang, X. & Riesenhuber, M. Evidence for highly selective neuronal tuning to whole words in the 'visual word form area'. Neuron 62, 199–204 (2009).
Taylor, J. S. H., Rastle, K. & Davis, M. H. Distinct neural specializations for learning to read words and name objects. J. Cogn. Neurosci. 26, 2128–2154 (2014).
Kherif, F., Josse, G. & Price, C. J. Automatic top-down processing explains common left occipito-temporal responses to visual words and objects. Cereb. Cortex 21, 103–114 (2010).
Mano, Q. R. et al. The role of left occipitotemporal cortex in reading: reconciling stimulus, task, and lexicality effects. Cereb. Cortex 23, 988–1001 (2013).
Yoncheva, Y. N., Zevin, J. D., Maurer, U. & McCandliss, B. D. Auditory selective attention to speech modulates activity in the visual word form area. Cereb. Cortex 20, 622–632 (2010).
Rothlein, D. & Rapp, B. The similarity structure of distributed neural responses reveals the multiple representations of letters. NeuroImage 89, 331–344 (2014).
Reich, L., Szwed, M., Cohen, L. & Amedi, A. A ventral visual stream reading center independent of visual experience. Curr. Biol. 21, 363–368 (2011).
Buchel, C., Price, C. & Friston, K. A multimodal language region in the ventral visual pathway. Nature 394, 274–277 (1998).
Striem-Amit, E., Cohen, L., Dehaene, S. & Amedi, A. Reading with sounds: sensory substitution selectively activates the visual word form area in the blind. Neuron 76, 640–652 (2012).
Striem-Amit, E. & Amedi, A. Visual cortex extrastriate body-selective area activation in congenitally blind people 'seeing' by using sounds. Curr. Biol. 24, 687–692 (2014).
Striem-Amit, E., Dakwar, O., Reich, L. & Amedi, A. The large-scale organization of 'visual' streams emerges without visual experience. Cereb. Cortex 22, 1698–1709 (2012).
Wandell, B. A. & Yeatman, J. D. Biological development of reading circuits. Curr. Opin. Neurobiol. 23, 261–268 (2013).
Bouhali, F. et al. Anatomical connections of the visual word form area. J. Neurosci. 34, 15402–15414 (2014).
Yeatman, J. D., Dougherty, R. F., Ben-Shachar, M. & Wandell, B. A. Development of white matter and reading skills. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 109, E3045–E3053 (2012).
Pinel, P. & Dehaene, S. Beyond hemispheric dominance: brain regions underlying the joint lateralization of language and arithmetic to the left hemisphere. J. Cogn. Neurosci. 22, 48–66 (2009).
Cai, Q., Paulignan, Y., Brysbaert, M., Ibarrola, D. & Nazir, T. A. The left ventral occipito-temporal response to words depends on language lateralization but not on visual familiarity. Cereb. Cortex 20, 1153–1163 (2010).
Allison, T., McCarthy, G., Nobre, A. C., Puce, A. & Belger, A. Human extrastriate visual cortex and the perception of faces, words, numbers and colors. Cereb. Cortex 5, 544–554 (1994).
Nestor, A., Plaut, D. C. & Behrmann, M. Unraveling the distributed neural code of facial identity through spatiotemporal pattern analysis. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 108, 9998–10003 (2011).
Puce, A., Allison, T., Asgari, M., Gore, J. C. & McCarthy, G. Differential sensitivity of human visual cortex to faces, letterstrings, and textures: a functional magnetic resonance imaging study. J. Neurosci. 16, 5205–5215 (1996).
Li, S. et al. Neural competition as a developmental process: early hemispheric specialization for word processing delays specialization for face processing. Neuropsychologia 5, 950–959 (2013).
Pinel, P. et al. Genetic and environmental influences on the visual word form and fusiform face areas. Cereb. Cortex http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/cercor/bhu048 (2014).
Dundas, E. M., Plaut, D. C. & Behrmann, M. The joint development of hemispheric lateralization for words and faces. J. Exp. Psychol. Gen. 142, 348–358 (2013).
Cantlon, J. F., Pinel, P., Dehaene, S. & Pelphrey, K. A. Cortical representations of symbols, objects, and faces are pruned back during early childhood. Cereb. Cortex 21, 191–199 (2011).
Golarai, G. et al. Differential development of high-level visual cortex correlates with category-specific recognition memory. Nature Neurosci. 10, 512–522 (2007).
Scherf, K. S., Luna, B., Avidan, G. & Behrmann, M. 'What' precedes 'which': developmental neural tuning in face- and place-related cortex. Cereb. Cortex 21, 1963–1980 (2011).
Dehaene, S. Reading in the Brain (Penguin Viking, 2009).
Weiner, K. S. et al. The mid-fusiform sulcus: a landmark identifying both cytoarchitectonic and functional divisions of human ventral temporal cortex. NeuroImage 84, 453–465 (2014).
Grill-Spector, K. & Weiner, K. S. The functional architecture of the ventral temporal cortex and its role in categorization. Nature Rev. Neurosci. 15, 536–548 (2014).
Rollenhagen, J. E. & Olson, C. R. Mirror-image confusion in single neurons of the macaque inferotemporal cortex. Science 287, 1506–1508 (2000).
Axelrod, V. & Yovel, G. Hierarchical processing of face viewpoint in human visual cortex. J. Neurosci. 32, 2442–2452 (2012).
Kietzmann, T. C., Swisher, J. D., Konig, P. & Tong, F. Prevalence of selectivity for mirror-symmetric views of faces in the ventral and dorsal visual pathways. J. Neurosci. 32, 11763–11772 (2012).
Logothetis, N. K., Pauls, J. & Poggio, T. Shape representation in the inferior temporal cortex of monkeys. Curr. Biol. 5, 552–563 (1995).
Dehaene, S. et al. Why do children make mirror errors in reading? Neural correlates of mirror invariance in the visual word form area. NeuroImage 49, 1837–1848 (2010).
Dilks, D. D., Julian, J. B., Kubilius, J., Spelke, E. S. & Kanwisher, N. Mirror-image sensitivity and invariance in object and scene processing pathways. J. Neurosci. 31, 11305–11312 (2011).
Eger, E., Henson, R. N., Driver, J. & Dolan, R. J. BOLD repetition decreases in object-responsive ventral visual areas depend on spatial attention. J. Neurophysiol. 92, 1241–1247 (2004).
Pegado, F., Nakamura, K., Cohen, L. & Dehaene, S. Breaking the symmetry: mirror discrimination for single letters but not for pictures in the visual word form area. NeuroImage 55, 742–749 (2011).
Vuilleumier, P., Schwartz, S., Duhoux, S., Dolan, R. J. & Driver, J. Selective attention modulates neural substrates of repetition priming and 'implicit' visual memory: suppressions and enhancements revealed by fMRI. J. Cogn. Neurosci. 17, 1245–1260 (2005).
Pegado, F. et al. Literacy breaks mirror invariance for visual stimuli: a behavioral study with adult illiterates. J. Exp. Psychol. Gen. 143, 887–894 (2014).
Kolinsky, R. & Fernandes, T. A cultural side effect: learning to read interferes with identity processing of familiar objects. Front. Psychol. 5, 1224 (2014).
Danziger, E. & Pederson, E. Through the looking glass: literacy, writing systems and mirror-image discrimination. Writ. Lang. Lit. 1, 153–167 (1998).
Fernandes, T. & Kolinsky, R. From hand to eye: the role of literacy, familiarity, graspability, and vision-for-action on enantiomorphy. Acta Psychol. (Amst.) 142, 51–61 (2013).
Duñabeitia, J. A., Molinaro, N. & Carreiras, M. Through the looking-glass: mirror reading. NeuroImage 54, 3004–3009 (2011).
Perea, M., Moret-Tatay, C. & Panadero, V. Suppression of mirror generalization for reversible letters: evidence from masked priming. J. Mem. Lang. 65, 237–246 (2011).
Dehaene, S., Izard, V., Pica, P. & Spelke, E. Core knowledge of geometry in an Amazonian indigene group. Science 311, 381–384 (2006).
Duñabeitia, J. A., Dimitropoulou, M., Estévez, A. & Carreiras, M. The influence of reading expertise in mirror-letter perception: evidence from beginning and expert readers. Mind Brain Educ. 7, 124–135 (2013).
Kolinsky, R., Morais, J. & Verhaeghe, A. Visual separability: a study on unschooled adults. Perception 23, 471–486 (1994).
Vagharchakian, L., Dehaene-Lambertz, G., Pallier, C. & Dehaene, S. A temporal bottleneck in the language comprehension network. J. Neurosci. 32, 9089–9102 (2012).
Castro-Caldas, A., Petersson, K. M., Reis, A., Stone-Elander, S. & Ingvar, M. The illiterate brain. Learning to read and write during childhood influences the functional organization of the adult brain. Brain 121, 1053–1063 (1998).
Nation, K. & Hulme, C. Learning to read changes children's phonological skills: evidence from a latent variable longitudinal study of reading and nonword repetition. Dev. Sci. 14, 649–659 (2011).
Monzalvo, K. & Dehaene-Lambertz, G. How reading acquisition changes children's spoken language network. Brain Lang. 127, 356–365 (2013).
Chang, E. F. et al. Categorical speech representation in human superior temporal gyrus. Nature Neurosci. 13, 1428–1432 (2010).
Mesgarani, N., Cheung, C., Johnson, K. & Chang, E. F. Phonetic feature encoding in human superior temporal gyrus. Science 343, 1006–1010 (2014).
Jacquemot, C., Pallier, C., LeBihan, D., Dehaene, S. & Dupoux, E. Phonological grammar shapes the auditory cortex: a functional magnetic resonance imaging study. J. Neurosci. 23, 9541–9546 (2003).
Calvert, G. A. et al. Activation of auditory cortex during silent lipreading. Science 276, 593–596 (1997).
Van Atteveldt, N., Formisano, E., Goebel, R. & Blomert, L. Integration of letters and speech sounds in the human brain. Neuron 43, 271–282 (2004).
Blau, V., van Atteveldt, N., Ekkebus, M., Goebel, R. & Blomert, L. Reduced neural integration of letters and speech sounds links phonological and reading deficits in adult dyslexia. Curr. Biol. 19, 503–508 (2009).
Liberman, I. Y., Shankweiler, D., Fischer, F. W. & Carter, B. Explicit syllable and phoneme segmentation in the young child. J. Exp. Child Psychol. 18, 201–212 (1974).
Morais, J., Cary, L., Alegria, J. & Bertelson, P. Does awareness of speech as a sequence of phones arise spontaneously? Cognition 7, 323–331 (1979).
Lukatela, K., Carello, C., Shankweiler, D. & Liberman, I. Y. Phonological awareness in illterates: observations from Serbo-Croatian. Appl. Psycholinguist. 16, 463–488 (1995).
Adrian, A., Alegria, J. & Morais, J. Metaphonological abilities of Spanish illiterate adults. Int. J. Psychol. 30, 329–351 (1995).
Serniclaes, W., Ventura, P., Morais, J. & Kolinsky, R. Categorical perception of speech sounds in illiterate adults. Cognition 98, B35–B44 (2005).
Ventura, P., Kolinsky, R., Fernandes, S., Querido, L. & Morais, J. Lexical restructuring in the absence of literacy. Cognition 105, 334–361 (2007).
Morais, J. & Kolinsky, R. Perception and awareness in phonological processing: the case of the phoneme. Cognition 50, 287–297 (1994).
Ventura, P., Kolinsky, R., Querido, J.-L., Fernandes, S. & Morais, J. Is phonological encoding in naming influenced by literacy? J. Psycholinguist. Res. 36, 341–360 (2007).
Burton, M. W., Small, S. L. & Blumstein, S. E. The role of segmentation in phonological processing: an fMRI investigation. J. Cogn. Neurosci. 12, 679–690 (2000).
Zatorre, R. J., Meyer, E., Gjedde, A. & Evans, A. C. PET studies of phonetic processing of speech: review, replication, and reanalysis. Cereb. Cortex 6, 21–30 (1996).
Brennan, C., Cao, F., Pedroarena-Leal, N., McNorgan, C. & Booth, J. R. Reading acquisition reorganizes the phonological awareness network only in alphabetic writing systems. Hum. Brain Mapp. 34, 3354–3368 (2013).
Booth, J. R. et al. Functional anatomy of intra- and cross-modal lexical tasks. NeuroImage 16, 7–22 (2002).
Cohen, L., Jobert, A., Le Bihan, D. & Dehaene, S. Distinct unimodal and multimodal regions for word processing in the left temporal cortex. NeuroImage 23, 1256–1270 (2004).
Booth, J. R. et al. Development of brain mechanisms for processing orthographic and phonologic representations. J. Cogn. Neurosci. 16, 1234–1249 (2004).
Cone, N. E., Burman, D. D., Bitan, T., Bolger, D. J. & Booth, J. R. Developmental changes in brain regions involved in phonological and orthographic processing during spoken language processing. NeuroImage 41, 623–635 (2008).
Desroches, A. S. et al. Children with reading difficulties show differences in brain regions associated with orthographic processing during spoken language processing. Brain Res. 1356, 73–84 (2010).
Burton, M. W., Locasto, P. C., Krebs-Noble, D. & Gullapalli, R. P. A systematic investigation of the functional neuroanatomy of auditory and visual phonological processing. NeuroImage 26, 647–661 (2005).
Seidenberg, M. S. & Tanenhaus, M. K. Orthographic effects on rhyme monitoring. Q. J. Exp. Psychol. (Hove) 5, 546–554 (1979).
Pattamadilok, C., Perre, L., Dufau, S. & Ziegler, J. C. On-line orthographic influences on spoken language in a semantic task. J. Cogn. Neurosci. 21, 169–179 (2009).
Peereman, R., Dufour, S. & Burt, J. S. Orthographic influences in spoken word recognition: the consistency effect in semantic and gender categorization tasks. Psychon. Bull. Rev. 16, 363–368 (2009).
Ziegler, J. C. & Ferrand, L. Orthography shapes the perception of speech: the consistency effect in auditory word recognition. Psychon. Bull. Rev. 5, 683–689 (1998).
Perre, L. & Ziegler, J. C. On-line activation of orthography in spoken word recognition. Brain Res. 1188, 132–138 (2008).
Perre, L., Pattamadilok, C., Montant, M. & Ziegler, J. C. Orthographic effects in spoken language: on-line activation or phonological restructuring? Brain Res. 1275, 73–80 (2009).
Pattamadilok, C., Knierim, I. N., Kawabata Duncan, K. J. & Devlin, J. T. How does learning to read affect speech perception? J. Neurosci. 30, 8435–8444 (2010).
Morais, J., Bertelson, P., Cary, L. & Alegria, J. Literacy training and speech segmentation. Cognition 24, 45–64 (1986).
Kosmidis, M. H., Zafiri, M. & Politimou, N. Literacy versus formal schooling: influence on working memory. Arch. Clin. Neuropsychol. 26, 575–582 (2011).
Pattamadilok, C., Lafontaine, H., Morais, J. & Kolinsky, R. Auditory word serial recall benefits from orthographic dissimilarity. Lang. Speech 53, 321–341 (2010).
Share, D. L. Phonological recoding and self-teaching: sine qua non of reading acquisition. Cognition 55, 151–218; discussion 219–226 (1995).
Yeatman, J. D. et al. Anatomical properties of the arcuate fasciculus predict phonological and reading skills in children. J. Cogn. Neurosci. 23, 3304–3317 (2011).
Saygin, Z. M. et al. Tracking the roots of reading ability: white matter volume and integrity correlate with phonological awareness in prereading and early-reading kindergarten children. J. Neurosci. 33, 13251–13258 (2013).
Castro-Caldas, A. et al. Influence of learning to read and write on the morphology of the corpus callosum. Eur. J. Neurol. 6, 23–28 (1999).
Petersson, K. M., Silva, C., Castro-Caldas, A., Ingvar, M. & Reis, A. Literacy: a cultural influence on functional left–right differences in the inferior parietal cortex. Eur. J. Neurosci. 26, 791–799 (2007).
Molko, N. et al. Visualizing the neural bases of a disconnection syndrome with diffusion tensor imaging. J. Cogn. Neurosci. 14, 629–636 (2002).
Taylor, J. S. H., Rastle, K. & Davis, M. H. Can cognitive models explain brain activation during word and pseudoword reading? A meta-analysis of 36 neuroimaging studies. Psychol. Bull. 139, 766–791 (2013).
Pugh, K. R. et al. Neurobiological studies of reading and reading disability. J. Commun. Disord. 34, 479–492 (2001).
Cohen, L., Dehaene, S., Vinckier, F., Jobert, A. & Montavont, A. Reading normal and degraded words: contribution of the dorsal and ventral visual pathways. NeuroImage 40, 353–366 (2008).
Carreiras, M., Quiñones, I., Hernández-Cabrera, J. A. & Duñabeitia, J. A. Orthographic coding: brain activation for letters, symbols, and digits. Cereb. Cortex http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/cercor/bhu163 (2014).
Huettig, F. & Mishra, R. K. How literacy acquisition affects the illiterate mind – a critical examination of theories and evidence. Lang. Linguist. Compass 8, 401–427 (2014).
Kolinsky, R. in The Oxford Handbook of Reading (eds Pollatsek, A. & Treiman, R.) (Oxford Univ. Press, 2014).
Ratcliff, G. et al. Effects of literacy and education on measures of word fluency. Brain Lang. 61, 115–122 (1998).
Reis, A. & Castro-Caldas, A. Illiteracy: a cause for biased cognitive development. J. Int. Neuropsychol. Soc. 3, 444–450 (1997).
Kolinsky, R. et al. How formal education and literacy impact on the content and structure of semantic categories. Trends Neurosci. Educ. 3, 106–121 (2014).
Matute, E. et al. Comparing cognitive performance in illiterate and literate children. Int. Rev. Educ. 58, 109–127 (2012).
Morais, J. & Kolinsky, R. in Psychology at the Turn of the Millennium (eds Bäckman, L. & von Hofsten, C.) 507–530 (Psychology Press, 2002).
Goody, J. Literacy in Traditional Societies (Cambridge Univ. Press, 1968).
Luria, A. R. Cognitive Development. Its Cultural and Social Foundations (Harvard Univ. Press, 1976).
Scribner, S. & Cole, M. The Psychology of Literacy (Harvard Univ. Press, 1981).
Dias, M., Roazzi, A. & Harris, P. L. Reasoning from unfamiliar premises: a study with unschooled adults. Psychol. Sci. 16, 550–554 (2005).
Verhaeghe, A. & Kolinsky, R. What Illiterate People Teach us about Intelligence Tests (Fund Gulbenkian- FCT, 2006) (in Portuguese).
Landgraf, S. Dissociating improvement of attention and intelligence during written language acquisition in adults. Int. J. Intell. Sci. 1, 17–24 (2011).
National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. Report of the National Reading Panel. Teaching Children to Read: An Evidence-Based Assessment of the Scientific Research Literature on Reading and Its Implications for Reading Instruction. NIH Publication No. 00–4769 (US Government Printing Office, 2000).
Hoeft, F. et al. Neural systems predicting long-term outcome in dyslexia. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 108, 361–366 (2011).
Pugh, K. R. et al. Glutamate and choline levels predict individual differences in reading ability in emergent readers. J. Neurosci. 34, 4082–4089 (2014).
Srihasam, K., Mandeville, J. B., Morocz, I. A., Sullivan, K. J. & Livingstone, M. S. Behavioral and anatomical consequences of early versus late symbol training in macaques. Neuron 73, 608–619 (2012).
Fernandes, T., Vale, A. P., Martins, B., Morais, J. & Kolinsky, R. The deficit of letter processing in developmental dyslexia: combining evidence from dyslexics, typical readers and illiterate adults. Dev. Sci. 17, 125–141 (2014).
DeFrancis, J. Visible Speech: The Diverse Oneness of Writing Systems (Univ. of Hawaii, 1989).
Nakamura, K. et al. Universal brain systems for recognizing word shapes and handwriting gestures during reading. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 109, 20762–20767 (2012).
Nakamura, K., Dehaene, S., Jobert, A., Le Bihan, D. & Kouider, S. Subliminal convergence of Kanji and Kana words: further evidence for functional parcellation of the posterior temporal cortex in visual word perception. J. Cogn. Neurosci. 17, 954–968 (2005).
Lee, C. Y. et al. Neuronal correlates of consistency and frequency effects on Chinese character naming: an event-related fMRI study. NeuroImage 23, 1235–1245 (2004).
Wu, C. Y., Ho, M. H. & Chen, S. H. A meta-analysis of fMRI studies on Chinese orthographic, phonological, and semantic processing. NeuroImage 63, 381–391 (2012).
Frost, R. Towards a universal model of reading. Behav. Brain Sci. 35, 263–279 (2012).
Yoncheva, Y. N., Blau, V. C., Maurer, U. & McCandliss, B. D. Attentional focus during learning impacts N170 ERP responses to an artificial script. Dev. Neuropsychol. 35, 423–445 (2010).
Velan, H. & Frost, R. Letter-transposition effects are not universal: the impact of transposing letters in Hebrew. J. Mem. Lang. 61, 285–302 (2009).
Bick, A. S., Goelman, G. & Frost, R. Hebrew brain versus English brain: language modulates the way it is processed. J. Cogn. Neurosci. 23, 2280–2290 (2011).
Seymour, P. H., Aro, M. & Erskine, J. M. Foundation literacy acquisition in European orthographies. Br. J. Psychol. 94, 143–174 (2003).
Paulesu, E. et al. A cultural effect on brain function. Nature Neurosci. 3, 91–96 (2000).
Cheung, H., Chen, H. C., Lai, C. Y., Wong, O. C. & Hills, M. The development of phonological awareness: effects of spoken language experience and orthography. Cognition 81, 227–241 (2001).
Cheung, H. & Chen, H. C. Early orthographic experience modifies both phonological awareness and on-line speech processing. Lang. Cogn. Process. 19, 1–28 (2004).
Read, C., Zhang, Y. F., Nie, H. Y. & Ding, B. Q. The ability to manipulate speech sounds depends on knowing alphabetic writing. Cognition 24, 31–44 (1986).
Tan, L. H., Laird, A. R., Li, K. & Fox, P. T. Neuroanatomical correlates of phonological processing of Chinese characters and alphabetic words: a meta-analysis. Hum. Brain Mapp. 25, 83–91 (2005).
Bara, F., Gentaz, E., Colé, P. & Sprenger-Charolles, L. The visuo-haptic and haptic exploration of letters increases the kindergarten-children's understanding of the alphabetic principle. Cogn. Dev. 19, 433–449 (2004).
James, K. H. Sensori-motor experience leads to changes in visual processing in the developing brain. Dev. Sci. 13, 279–288 (2010).
Longcamp, M. et al. Learning through hand- or typewriting influences visual recognition of new graphic shapes: behavioral and functional imaging evidence. J. Cogn. Neurosci. 20, 802–815 (2008).
Tan, L. H., Spinks, J. A., Eden, G. F., Perfetti, C. A. & Siok, W. T. Reading depends on writing, in Chinese. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 102, 8781–8785 (2005).
Abadzi, H. Can adults become fluent readers in newly learned scripts? Educ. Res. Int. 2012, 1–8 (2012).
Wilhelm, I. et al. The sleeping child outplays the adult's capacity to convert implicit into explicit knowledge. Nature Neurosci. 16, 391–393 (2013).
Dehaene-Lambertz, G., Dehaene, S. & Hertz-Pannier, L. Functional neuroimaging of speech perception in infants. Science 298, 2013–2015 (2002).
This work was supported by the French Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche Médicale (INSERM), the French Commissariat à l'Energie Atomique (CEA), the Collège de France, an Agence Nationale de la Recherche grant to S.D. and L.C. (project CoreLex), the Fonds de la Recherche Scientifique-FNRS (FRS-FNRS, grant FRFC 2.4515.12) and an Interuniversity Attraction Poles (IAP) grant 7/33, Belspo to R.K.
The authors declare no competing financial interests.
About this article
Cite this article
Dehaene, S., Cohen, L., Morais, J. et al. Illiterate to literate: behavioural and cerebral changes induced by reading acquisition. Nat Rev Neurosci 16, 234–244 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1038/nrn3924
This article is cited by
Scientific Reports (2023)
Nature Human Behaviour (2023)
Scientific Reports (2023)
How WEIRD is Cognitive Archaeology? Engaging with the Challenge of Cultural Variation and Sample Diversity
Review of Philosophy and Psychology (2023)
Current Psychology (2023)