You hear so much about “neuroplasticity” at Learning and the Brain conferences that you already know its meaning: brains have the ability to change.
In fact, you hear about neuroplasticity so often that you might start to lose interest. You say to yourself: “Brains can change: blah, blah, blah. Tell me something I don’t already know.”
And then you read this study about adult women in rural India. They had never learned to read; heck, they had never even been to school.
And, sure enough, when they were taught to read, their brains started changing. After only six months, their brains looked measurably different–all because they had started to read.
On the one hand, this result is perfectly straightforward: if their brains hadn’t changed, how would they have learned anything? And yet, unlike most “doing X causes your brain to change!” stories, this one struck me as quite poignant.
Consider this your feel-good-about-neuroscience story of the day.
Who taught them to read and how hard was it for them to learn as adults
The study says that “The instructor was a professional teacher who followed the locally established method of reading instruction.” It doesn’t say how hard it was for the adults to learn — just that they could not read the local alphabet when they started. If you’re interested in more specifics, you can click the link, and read about the “Participants” and “Demographic and Behavioral Data.”