Skilled readers are able to identify words much quickly while reading because the word has been inscribed in a visual dictionary of the brain, claims study conducted by neuroscientists at the Georgetown University Medical Centre (GUMC).
The visual dictionary idea rebuts the theory that our brain "sounds out" words each time we see them.
This finding matters because unravelling how the brain solves the complex task of reading can help in uncovering the brain basis of reading disorders, such as dyslexia, said the scientists.
"One camp of neuroscientists believes that we access both the phonology and the visual perception of a word as we read them and that the area or areas of the brain that do one, also do the other, but our study proves this isn't the case," explained the study's lead investigator, Laurie Glezer, Ph.D., a postdoctoral research fellow.
"What we found is that once we've learned a word, it is placed in a purely visual dictionary in the brain. Having a purely visual representation allows for the fast and efficient word recognition we see in skilled readers.
"This study is the first demonstration of that concept," stated Glezer who works in the Laboratory for Computational Cognitive Neuroscience at GUMC.
Glezer says that these findings might help explain why people with dyslexia have slower, more laboured reading.
The finding was reported at the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience, Neuroscience 2011.