Distinguished Lecture Series
March 7, 2011
Title of Talk: How Does the Brain Learn to Read and Calculate?
Speaker: James R. Booth
Jo Ann G. and Peter F. Dolle Professor in Learning Disabilities
Location: Troy Moore Library
Time: 10:30 AM
Abstract: Writing and mathematics are relatively recent cultural inventions, only having been utilized by humans for about 5000 years. Even though this is too little time for evolution to have rewired the brain, most people effectively acquire these symbol systems by early childhood. In this lecture, I will discuss our attempts to uncover the mechanisms underlying the development of our amazing abilities to read and calculate. I will argue that general principles of brain development are key to reaching a deeper understanding in this field of inquiry. These principles suggest increases across development in (1) the specialization of brain regions for different computations and (2) the interaction between brain regions through enhanced connectivity. Our studies also suggest that the relatively slow acquisition of certain skills may indicate greater neuronal recycling – the repurposing of evolutionary older structures for new functions. Finally, I will review evidence suggesting that our growing knowledge of typical brain development is relevant for understanding why approximately 6% of children have difficulties with reading (dyslexia) or math (dyscalculia). Literacy is fundamental to human society and the costs of illiteracy are enormous.
*There will be a small coffee reception at 10:00 AM preceding the lecture.