Printing and brain development
"We are interested in how children's neural activity changes as they learn to recognize letters and as they learn to read," said Karin Harman James, an assistant professor in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences at IU Bloomington. "We have recently shown that when children look at letters, the activity in parts of their brains becomes more like activity seen in literate adult brains, but only after they have had practice printing letters."
One group of preschool children practiced identifying letters using visual practice while another group practiced printing letters. Only the group that practiced printing letters showed changes in brain activity while viewing letters as a result of their experience.
"Coupled with other work from our lab, we interpret this as the motor system augmenting visual processing," James said. "In the case of learning letters, printing helps children recognize letters."
These studies are part of a larger initiative in the Cognition & Action Neuroimaging Laboratory to study how the brains of preschool children change as they learn to read. Neuroimaging at IU uses functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging to measure brain activation while people are performing tasks. This method uses the same technology as MRI, which gives pictures of internal tissue, but instead of taking a measure at one time, fMRI measures tissue changes over time. It is harmless and involves no risks, so is safely used on children.
To read more articles from the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences in the College of Arts and Sciences, visit http://newsinfo.iu.edu/cat/page/normal/363.html.