An interactive art exhibit entitled “Beautiful Minds: Dyslexia and the Creative Advantage” illustrates how, as people learn to read, their neural activity increases.
Category: Children's Health, Health Magazine

Title:Illuminating the power of reading on the human brain

Author: Kate Colwell and Kathleen O’Neil
Date Published: November 16, 2021

In the DoSeum, a children’s museum in San Antonio, Texas, kids danced under the lights of a human brain. As they danced, 36 acrylic orbs hanging from the ceiling in two hemispheres became more intense shades of blue, orange, and pink that flashed faster to match the movement below. This interactive sculpture in the exhibit “Beautiful Minds: Dyslexia and the Creative Advantage” illustrated how, as people learn to read, their neural activity increases.

Photojournalist and artist Sarah Sudhoff created the sculpture using data from Guinevere Eden, PhD, a Georgetown University professor of pediatrics and the director of the Center for the Study of Learning. Eden and postdoctoral fellow Anna Matejko, PhD, study the effects of reading on brain plasticity by using an fMRI to measure brain activity during two four-minute scans while the children viewed real and madeup words. They are currently analyzing data that compare neural activity in children with dyslexia before and after they receive tutoring to improve their reading ability.

The regions of the brain that “are activated in children who read well are found not to be activated as much in children who have dyslexia,” Eden says. In a prior study of adults with dyslexia, Eden and her team found that after a reading intervention, multiple areas of the brain became more active. “It’s similar to what is reported in stroke patients, where a region takes over the job of its neighbor,” Eden says.

Eden and her team continue to parse the results for insights about brain plasticity, and to visualize which areas of the brain activate during reading in adults and children with and without dyslexia. “You can literally see how the educational experience changes our brains to be better attuned to words,” she says.

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