Ability to flip words not exclusive to dyslexics

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) You may not realize it, but your vision can read the headline of this article.  Your brain knows that it isn’t correct and remembers not to process it.

Jon Andoni Duñabeitia, lead author of a recent study with scientists from the Basque Centre on Cognition, Brain and Language (BCBL) are the first to show that we can mentally turn these images around and comprehend them automatically and unconsciously for a few milliseconds.

Early in the processing stage (around 200 milliseconds) the visual system completely rotates words reflected backwards in a mirror and recognizes them.

"Backwards reading study may lead to a better understanding of dyslexia."

27 participants in the study were placed in front of a computer and hooked up to electrodes so researchers could monitor their brain activity during the two experiments. 

In the first experiment, participants were shown words with some letters rotated for 50 milliseconds which is an imperceptible time. The second experiment rotated the entire word in the mirror, for example OHW instead of WHO.

Encephalogram results indicated that the brain’s response to the words that were like a reflection in the mirror was exactly the same as the brain’s response when viewing the word not in a mirror.

Due to this study, we now know that rotating letters is not a quality exclusive to some dyslexics because everyone often does this in some unconscious way.

Researchers now want to build on this study to understand why people who can read inhibit this ability while those with dyslexia and dysgrafia cannot.

Science doesn’t know why reading, an ability learned late in human development, inhibits mental rotation in a mirror, which is a visual capacity common to many animals. In other words, how can a learned skill override a more basic, instinctual capacity?

Oh, and the headline reads: WHAT A TOOTHY MOUTH!

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
April 1, 2011
Last Updated:
April 4, 2011