Thursday, November 1, 2012
Are you a proficient reader? Researchers at Stanford University have found that proficient reading requires efficient communication between brain areas that involve vision, hearing, and language. These areas are distributed throughout the brain so the development of reading ability relates to growth in the brain’s white-matter tracts, bundles of myelinated nerve fibers that connect these distant regions of the brain. The growth of these white-matter tracts is governed by pruning (the elimination of extraneous nerve fibers and neuronal connections); and myelination (the coating of nerve fibers with myelin, a fatty, insulating tissue that increases the speed of transmission). Both processes are influenced by experience: underused nerve fibers are pruned while others are myelinated--so they occur at different rates and times in different people. Bottom line? Read to children; listen to them read. Read aloud to yourself. Keep those nerve fibers stimulated!