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  • Cited by 2
  • Print publication year: 2008
  • Online publication date: September 2009

11 - A triptych of the reading brain: Evolution, development, pathology, and its intervention

from Part III - Brain, language, and mathematics



The most remarkable property of the human brain is the capacity to develop new connections and establish new networks through the rearrangement of preexisting neuronal structures. To invent and assimilate new cognitive skills, like writing and reading, humans have used the cortical, subcortical, and cerebellar structures already produced by biological evolution, as Dehaene describes in his chapter. It took several millennia for our species to have reached the general literacy in the population, and today a child needs less than a decade of training to become fluent in reading. This remarkable neurological feat involves an impressive coordination of perceptual, attentional, motoric, linguistic, and cognitive components, all performing together at great speed. Any trouble within or among these complex components can produce disruptions or delays in the process of reading acquisition, as in developmental dyslexia. Wolf and her colleagues have created a successful intervention program with multiple parts (RAVE-O: Retrieval, Automaticity, Vocabulary, Engagement with language, Orthography) to improve reading fluency, with components based on research-based understanding of the delicate and complex processes of reading.

The Editors

The essence of intellectual change in recent human evolution lies not in the birth of new structures in our brain, but rather in the brain's extraordinary potential for the rearrangement of its existing neuronal pathways.