The Brain and the Written Word

A cognitive neuroscientist explains his quest to understand how reading works in the mind—and how the brain is changed by education and culture
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Stanislas Dehaene holds the chair of experimental cognitive psychology at the Collège de France, and he is also director of the INSERM-CEA Cognitive Neuroimaging Unit at NeuroSpin, the most advanced neuroimaging research center in France. Dehaene is best known for his research into the cerebral basis of numbers, popularized in his book The Number Sense: How the Mind Creates Mathematics (Oxford University Press, 1999). In his new book, Reading in the Brain: The Science and Evolution of a Human Invention (Viking Adult, 2009), he describes his quest to understand an astounding feat that most of us take for granted: translating marks on a page (or a screen) into language. Mind Matters editor Gareth Cook recently talked with Dehaene about how the art of reading reveals the fundamental relationship between our cultural inventions and our evolved brain.

SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN MIND: How did you become interested in the neuroscience of reading?

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