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How did reading and writing evolve? Neuroscience gives us some clues

How did reading and writing evolve? Neuroscience gives us some clues
Scientists are turning to neuroscience to understand how and why early humans first made rock engravings.


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The Visual Cortex: Processing Visual Information

The Visual Cortex: Processing Visual Information

The visual cortex region of the brain, which is responsible for processing visual information came millions of years before reading and writing was invented.

  • Recent research has provided new insights on how the brain is able to make sense of letters studied the ancient engraved patterns produced by early humans and their ancestors like Neanderthals and Homo Erectus.
  • The findings suggest that many repetitive lines, grids and angles make up the early visual markings that seem to evolve into complex writing and reading.




The Gestalt Principles

Our brain has the ability to respond to certain patterns and try to make sense of them, using the visual perceptions known as Gestalt Principles, helping early scribblers to construct basic formations that stimulated the higher-order visual cortex regions of the brain.

Our brain's response to geometry and patterns started taking shape in creation of symmetrical tools known as Acheulean Tools, about 700,000 years ago.



From Engravings To Writings

  • The geometric patterns that denoted information using symmetry, evolved from crude lines into engraved designs and eventually into modern writing.
  • Writing text involves an area of the brain known as premotor cortex, which is also responsible for driving manual skills.
  • Various neurological processes involving identification, pattern recognition and replication to create meaning furthered the evolution of the skills of writing and reading, which have stood the test of time.




Egyptian Senet

Egyptian Senet

One of the earliest known board games, Senet was played in 3100 BC and loved by Queen Nefertari and the Pharaoh Tutankhamun.

Played using a longboard having three rows of ten squar...

The Royal Game Of Ur

  • Also known as Twenty Squares, this 4500-year-old game, first unearthed in ancient Mesopotamia, is impressive in its complex rules and intricate design.
  • The beautiful game board uses twenty squares and has a narrow bridge in the middle part, was played in Iraq, Israel, Egypt, Turkey and many other ancient civilizations.
  • To finish the game as winners, players had to race their opponent to the opposite end of the board, moving pieces according to knucklebone dice rolls.

The Game of Mehen

  • Named after the Egyptian serpentine deity, Mehen is also known as the Egyptian Snake Game and was played between 3100 to 2300 BC.
  • Six players could simultaneously play this spiral board, each having a piece crafted in the shape of a lion or a sphere.
  • The rules of this game are not very clear because it lost its popularity after the decline of Egypt’s Old Kingdom and is hardly found in archaeological records.

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Science providing anwers

Science providing anwers

Despite the advances in science over the past century, our understanding of nature is still limited. Scientists still don't know what the vast majority of the universe is made up of or how cons...

Mysterian arguments

"Mysterian" thinkers give an important role to biological arguments and analogies.

Late philosopher Jerry Fodor argued that there are bound to be thoughts we are unable to think. Similarly, philosopher Colin McGinn claimed that all minds suffer from "cognitive closure" about particular problems. Just as animals will never understand prime numbers, so human brains are unable to consider some of the world's wonders.

Mysterians and pessimism

Mysterians present the question of cognitive limits in fixed terms: either we can solve a problem, or we will never be able to.

A possibility that eludes mysterians is one of slowly diminishing returns. We keep slowing down, even as we exert more effort, and there is no point where progress becomes impossible.

Mind Replay

Mind Replay

While we sleep, our brain is on to housekeeping. It is weeding through the experiences of the day and identifying stuff that needs to be put into long-term storage.

A new study which involv...

The Mind At Work

  • During the day, all our senses are busy collecting information, which includes sights, smells and sounds.
  • When we sleep, the new memory traces are consolidated and ‘de-fragmented’ into a permanent form of long-term storage, combining the recent experience with existing semantic memory networks.
  • This also proves that when we sleep after learning something, we tend to remember it better as it gets processed and digested inside our minds.