Past Event

Educating the Brain: How the Acquisition of Reading and Mathematics Affects Human Brain Circuits - Seminars in Society and Neuroscience

December 4, 2017
4:15 PM - 6:15 PM
Event time is displayed in your time zone.
Italian Academy, Columbia University, 1161 Amsterdam Avenue, New York
Photo of an open book with a brain illustration overlay

The event recording is available via YouTube. 

Speaker: Stanislas Dehaene, Professor and Chair of Experimental Cognitive Psychology, Collège de France; Director of the INSERM-CEA Cognitive Neuroimaging Unit

The remarkable plasticity of the human brain allows it to acquire new abilities through schooling and education. Reading acquisition recycles several pre-existing visual and auditory areas in order to reorient them to the processing of letters and phonemes. Comparisons of literate and illiterate brains have revealed three major sites of enhancement due to schooling: the early visual cortex, the « visual word form area » (a region specializing for the visual recognition of letter strings) and the planum temporale (a region involved in phonological processing). Dr. Dehaene will present a novel longitudinal study in which we repeatedly scanned individual children every two months during the first year of school. The results paint a detailed picture of how the ventral visual cortex and associated language areas are changed, and how reading acquisition competes with the cortical representation of faces. Dr. Dehaene will also show how mathematics affects brain activity, particularly by enhancing the responsivity to numbers and mathematical expressions in ventral visual cortex.

Speaker and respondents will discuss the implications of this work and how our growing understanding of the neuroscience of reading and mathematics may have important consequences for education and other fields.

Featuring an introduction from Eric R. Kandel, University Professor, Director of the Kavli Institute for Brain Science, and Co-Director of the Zuckerman Institute, Columbia University


  • Thomas A. DiPrete, Giddings Professor of Sociology, Columbia University
  • Kimberly Noble, Associate Professor of Neuroscience and Education, Teachers College, Columbia University
  • Daphna Shohamy, Associate Professor of Psychology, Columbia University


  • Aniruddha Das, Associate Professor of Neuroscience, Columbia University

    Free and open to the public, but RSVP is required via Eventbrite.

    The event is co-sponsored by the Center for Science and Society and the Presidential Scholars in Society and Neuroscience program as part of the Seminars in Society and Neuroscience series.