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2016.0115

Myth Breaker: Left Brain for Language Learning

Reading, writing and arithmetic are three basic skills required in course throughout the world. Different language systems look different when to read, write and calculate, but when people use different languages, will the brain functions differently?
18 researchers from Taiwan, America, Israel and Spain have worked for 4 years to analysis and compare the functional magnetic resonance images for people who speaks Chinese, English, Hebrew and Spanish. They discovered the similarity of the functioning of the left brain. The paper “Universal brain signature of proficient reading: Evidence from four contrasting languages” was just published on the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in December 2015. This is the first research of that involves four languages that practices the same experimental method. The researchers are Ovid J.-L. Tzeng, the Distinguished Research Fellow & the 20th Academician, Academia Sinica, Denise Hsien Wu, the Director of the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience National Central University, Wen-Jui Kuo, the Associate professor and former Director of the Institute of Neuroscience of National Yang-Ming University, and Jun-Ren Li, the Associate Professor of the Department of Education Psychology and Counseling. This research not only supports the view of “One brain for all languages”, but also manifest Neuroscience Research of the Chinese Language what Tseng has been developed since the 1980s. What’s more important is that this research was done through multinational collaboration.

Here is the abstract of the paper:
Do the neural circuits for reading vary across culture? Reading of visually complex writing systems such as Chinese has been proposed to rely on areas outside the classical left-hemisphere network for alphabetic reading. Here, however, we show that, once potential confounds in cross-cultural comparisons are controlled for by presenting handwritten stimuli to both Chinese and French readers, the underlying network for visual word recognition may be more universal than previously suspected. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging in a semantic task with words written in cursive font, we demonstrate that two universal circuits, a shape recognition system (reading by eye) and a gesture recognition system (reading by hand), are similarly activated and show identical patterns of activation and repetition priming in the two language groups. These activations cover most of the brain regions previously associated with culture-specific tuning. Our results point to an extended reading network that invariably comprises the occipitotemporal visual word-form system, which is sensitive to well-formed static letter strings, and a distinct left premotor region, Exner’s area, which is sensitive to the forward or backward direction with which cursive letters are dynamically presented. These findings suggest that cultural effects in reading merely modulate a fixed set of invariant macroscopic brain circuits, depending on surface features of orthographies.