How the Human Brain Reads – In Any Language

February 15th, 2016 by Researchers at the University of Connecticut and their colleagues have found that what happens inside the brain when reading is the same no matter what the structure of a person’s written language, and that it is influenced by the same mechanism the brain uses to develop speech. The study, based on evidence from functional MRI (fMRI) images of participants using four contrasting languages, was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in November. Lead author Jay Rueckl, director of UConn’s Brain Imaging Research Center, says ‘reading is parasitic to speech’ – meaning that the brain’s activity while reading involves speech and print mechanisms rather than a simple response evoked by print alone. Read more: UConn Today‎

8 Ancient Writing Systems That Haven’t Been Deciphered Yet

October 29th, 2015 by The Indus Valley civilization was one of the most advanced in the world for more than 500 years, with more than a thousand settlements sprawling across 250,000 square miles of what is now Pakistan and northwest India from 2600 BCE to 1900 BCE. It had several large, well-planned cities like Mohenjo-daro, common iconography—and a script no one has been able to understand. Over at Nature, Andrew Robinson looks at the reasons why the Indus Valley script has been so difficult to crack, and details some recent attempts to decipher it. Since we don't know anything about the underlying language and there's no multilingual Rosetta stone, scholars have analyzed its structure for clues and compared it to other scripts. Most Indologists think it's "logo-syllabic" script like Sumerian cuneiform or Mayan glyphs. But they disagree about whether it was a spoken language or a full writing system; some believe it represented only part of an Indus language, Robinson writes. One team has created the first publicly available, electronic corpus of Indus texts. Another, led by computer scientist Rajesh Rao, analyzed the randomness in the script's sequences. Their results indicated it's most similar to Sumerian cuneiform, which suggests it may represent a language. Read the full article for more details. The Indus Valley script is far from the only one to remain mysterious. Here are eight others you might try your hand at deciphering. Read more: Mental Floss