What are the brain effects of Braille reading?

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Reading Braille has been found to have significant effects on the brain, particularly in terms of neuroplasticity, which refers to the brain's ability to reorganize itself by forming new neural connections. This is especially evident in people with vision loss, where the brain undergoes reorganization to accommodate the tactile demands of Braille reading12. The process of reading Braille involves the somatosensory system, which is responsible for tactile perception, rather than the visual system used in traditional reading. The visual cortex of blind individuals has been found to play a role in tactile processing during Braille reading, giving meaningful lexical and semantic properties to simple tactile information1. This ability of the primary visual cortex to process tactile information provides evidence for the outstanding brain plasticity of early-onset blind subjects and is functionally relevant to Braille reading ability1. During Braille learning, neuroplastic changes occur as learners must acquire the ability to extract spatial information from subtle tactile stimuli. The sensorimotor cortical area devoted to the representation of the reading finger enlarges, suggesting the unmasking of existing connections and the establishment of more stable structural changes16. In sighted adults, a nine-month tactile Braille-reading training showed anatomical grey and white matter reorganization in the visual cortex, which is used for tactile discrimination of Braille characters, along with stronger functional connections to somatosensory and motor cortices1. Moreover, a study found that when learning Braille, different brain regions strengthen their connections at varied rates and time frames. For instance, white matter in somatosensory areas strengthened steadily over the course of the training, while white matter in the visual cortex did not reorganize until halfway through the training, the point where the Braille words start to take on semantic meaning4. In conclusion, Braille reading has a profound impact on the brain, particularly in terms of neuroplasticity, leading to significant reorganization and strengthening of connections in various brain regions. This highlights the dynamic nature of learning-induced brain plasticity and the brain's remarkable ability to adapt to new demands and stimuli.
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