Competition between reading and face recognition?

A box of text at the side of an interesting article about the promising new idea of “perceptual learning” in education in New Scientist magazine (from January this year) included a suggestion that literacy can interfere with face recognition ability, citing a paper by Stanislas Dehaene and other researchers which was published in 2010 in the journal Science. Dehaene is the author of the brilliant and readable book titled Reading in the Brain: the science and evolution of a human invention, which I have previously written about at this blog, and he is also a French professor who has expertise in the area of the neural basis of reading.

I’ve taken a look at the abstract of that journal paper (which is also available to read in full text on the internet) and I’m not sure that an interpretation that literacy is a burden on the brain is justifiable, as it appears that learning how to read enhances responses in a number of different parts of the brain, including enhancement of “visual responses in fusiform and occipital cortex…” I probably shouldn’t make too many conclusions after merely reading an abstract of a research report paper, especially in light of the fact that I’m not a qualified researcher or scientist myself. Nevertheless, perhaps this research supports my claims that there’s a close association between the different abilities in reading faces and in reading text, and that there is a link between my superior face memory, my synaesthesia which I share with some first-degree relatives, and the above-average and precocious literacy abilities that are found in myself and my fellow synaesthete relatives, and that the fusiform gyrus is the part of the brain that is the basis of these connected abilities. It would be interesting to know whether prosopagnosia and dyslexia are found together more often than one would expect by chance. I doubt that literacy can be blamed for any impairment in face recognition.

Stanislas Dehaene, Felipe Pegado, Lucia W. Braga, Paulo Ventura, Gilberto Nunes Filho, Antoinette Jobert, Ghislaine Dehaene-Lambertz, Régine Kolinsky, José Morais, Laurent Cohen How Learning to Read Changes the Cortical Networks for Vision and Language. Science.  Published Online November 11 2010 December 3rd 2010 Vol. 330 no. 6009 pp.1359-1364 DOI: 10.1126/science.1194140—how-reading-changes-the-brain2.aspx

Aldhous, Peter Learning without remembering. New Scientist. January 21st 2012 Number 2848 p.42-45.

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