Monday, August 29, 2005

Action! Experiencing Words Through Reading


FMRI of language can be a bit mind boggling. We used to think of language in a very isolated way. But the truth is much more interesting than that.

In the figure at right, researchers found that 'action' or movement words are associated with relevent action or movement areas of the brain. What that means is that when we read a word like 'kick', we activate the leg movement area of the brain. When we read 'chew', then the mouth movement area of the brain becomes activated. Talk about your virtual reality.

The implications are wide for how we teach children words (should be rich, associated with sounds, imagery, movement, feeling), how we express words ourselves (gesturing, moving), and how we rehabilitate or strengthen word memory. The fact that this study's findings seem to be a bit of surprise may be because we are not fully conscious of all the motor and sensory (kinesthetic) associations we might have with the wide world of words.

Maybe that's why active people may like adventure stories (and text-based video gaming), and why we can tire after reading an exciting or gripping book.

Feeling Words

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