Does Reading Braille Process Differently Than Visual Text?

Reading is just one of the literal lists of ways that the human mind can take in information from the surrounding environment. Of all the senses that we take for granted and see as commonplace, our brains are able to commit, calculate, and process things in real time, with remarkable speed. In a study that examined the neurological implications of the mind’s associations of meanings with certain words, there was strong evidence shown in brain scans that demonstrated the brain’s instantaneous ability to respond in localized places! For example, if participants in the study read words about cookies, or dealing with a strong unpleasantness of smell like “pungent”, the olfactory sense area of the brain would light up on the scan in response, without the presence of any smells to trigger such a response. So what about reading Braille? Is there any real difference in the process as far as the brain is concerned? Interestingly enough, studies in Israel, Canada and France conducted tests within a population of both sighted and non-sighted people, asking them to read in their respective capacities. After brain scans and collecting data, the brain scans of non-sighted readers still showed brain activity in the area of the brain that receives stimuli visually! To further insure that there was no simple trend of memory or anticipation showing an anecdotal activation of these regions in the scans of non-sighted readers, the Braille texts included randomizations of characters that, speaking on language and meaning of the text, were nonsensensical, stuctureless combinations that don’t make any sense. For example, it’s easy to make predictions about what word could come next in a sentence, even if an individual doesn’t specifically read the word, because the brain tends to fill in gaps of meaning to make the process of information gathering easier when speaking, reading or listening.

 

Braille, named after its inventor, has demonstrated to activate the same regions of the brain as with sighted readers reading letters visually!

Braille, named after its inventor, has demonstrated to activate the same regions of the brain as with sighted readers reading letters visually!

 

In the studies, the magnetic resonance imaging showed that in these instances of the data being collected, the brain activity between sighted and non-sighted readers was indistinguishable! Imagine that, even without the need for sight to take in information to read, the brain still activates certain mechanisms that associate information. Fascinating! With more research, any consistency in brain activity can be useful to develop an understanding on the parts of the brain that deal with reading deficiencies and difficulties with memory! There are also factors such as the individual’s finger size that affect their speed and ease of reading Braille, and their tactile acuity, which is a term that describes the localization of specific skills that touch allows someone to do acutely, like reading Braille. To read Braille, readers have to still imagine the shapes they feel in their touch, and associate this shape somewhat visually with meaning in their memory! I wonder what other applications this visual-neural association could have in the future.

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