Shaping the Mind: How Literacy Rewrites the Brain by Bridget Cogley

Science tells us reading is not an innate ability; it takes years to master the art of literacy, which leaves the brain permanently changed. Taking on neuroscience with a dash of educational theory, this infographic mirrors some of the styles seen in Scientific American to distill a complex topic into a highly interactive stroll around the brain. Hover and explore to see what both the preliterate and literate brains think when presented with the task of deciphering 2 letters.

Using study data, it also highlights the mechanics of how we learn to read and the various tasks we achieve in developing literacy. It shows, based on longitudinal observations, when these tasks are typically achieved. From there, small multiples help highlight what each area does. Hover for the technical name of the area and more detail. By the end of the visualization, we can see all the areas that are engaged. The literate brain tethers an alphabet-driven language to phonetic sounds, using common language zones and creating a Visual Word Form Area within the brain.

Visually, this work echoes PET scans and lights with a nod to other scientific visualizations. Credits include a study guide to learn lobes and lobules of the brain.