It was only around 5,000 years ago that the human brain made a major breakthrough: Building on neural circuits that could already interpret scratches on clay tablets and the symbols in cave paintings, it developed the capacity to link the sounds of spoken language to the abstract visual marks we call words. In other words, humans learned to read.
The act of reading activates a symphony of brain activity, involving not only the visual and auditory systems but neural circuits that build meaning, evoke emotion, and encode memory. When you read, your brain does much more than simply comprehend the words in front of you: It enables you to empathize with people you’ve never met, to engage with ideas that challenge and inspire you, to imagine other worlds.
That is, if you can remember what you’re reading.