Busily erasing social skills? (Image: Gary John Norman/Getty)
Have you ever been embarrassed by introducing yourself at a party to someone only for them to point out that you've met before?
Don't feel too bad: your superior reading skills may be to blame, according to a new brain-scan study.
Stanislas Dehaene at the INSERM-CEA Cognitive Neuroimaging Unit in Saclay, France, has previously proposed a "neuronal recycling" theory, which suggests that new skills are handled by existing brain-cell circuits with older but related functions.
To test the hypothesis Dehaene and colleagues carried out functional MRI brain scans on 10 people who could not read, 22 who learned to read as adults and 31 who did so as children, while they were shown text and images.
The scans firstly confirmed which regions of the brain are associated with reading: as expected, the visual word form area, which is known to enable people to link sounds with written symbols, became active during reading, demonstrating that it plays an important role.
Unsurprisingly, those who were better readers had more activation in this area when they were reading compared with the others. And when volunteers listened to spoken sentences, all their brains showed similar responses in the visual word form area.
Bad memory for faces? Blame your reading skills - New Scientist