The “early visual cortex” – the location where visual information from the eye first impacts the cortex – processes information gave rise to the ability to engrave simple patterns. We know that this area has neurons coding for edges, lines and “T” junctions. As distilled forms, these shapes preferentially activate the visual cortex. […]
At some point from around 700,000 years ago, this sensitivity to geometry and pattern perception enabled humans to start making refined “Acheulean tools”, which exhibit a certain symmetry. This is unlikely to have been possible without an implicit knowledge of geometry. […]
At some point, these unintentional patterns were intentionally copied on such materials [stone, shells, etc.] – developing into engraved designs and later on into writing.
But how was this possible? Neuroscientific research has shown that writing text involves the premotor cortex of the brain, which drives manual skills. My theory therefore suggests that reading and writing evolved when our passive perception for discerning things started to interact with manual dexterity.
Writing and abstract patterns also activate so-called “mirror neurons” in the brain. These brain cells are remarkable because they fire both when we act and when we observe others acting – helping us identify with and understand others as if we ourselves were acting. But they also fire when we view patterns and see written text. This can therefore produce a sense of identification with a pattern – whether accidental or natural – in a way that inspires us to replicate it. And these marks were the first steps to writing and reading.
These developments therefore enabled the brain to reuse the visual cortex for an entirely new purpose. Ultimately, it could have created a new process in the brain that exploited the visual cortex, giving rise to a visual word form area and connecting with speech areas incrementally over time.
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