How does your brain work out the problem of turning letters on a page into words? Researchers are one step closer to understanding the phenomenon, and the results may be of great use in assisting those with conditions like dyslexia, as well as yielding a greater understanding as to what is involved in the process of reading in general.

There are two keys to successfully understanding a written word – the first is recognizing each individual letter, and the next is recognizing the positions of the letters. Thus we see ATE and TEA as two different words, despite being made up of the same three letters. Why then do readers sometimes seem to deal just fine with some letters being out of order?

This is what researchers hoped to discover, as the fact is that it seems to depend on which letters are out of order. Standard psychological tests included flashing mixed-up words to see which errors would make the word unrecognizable, and which ones the brain could overcome with relative ease. Current research however has taken this test to the next level and performed even more significant switcharoos.

Previous tests were limited because if the first letter was moved the word could often be confused for similar words that started with the new first letter, but further research reveals the brain may still recognize the correct word even with this more significant jumbling. Thus it is hoped that the new test will be able to reveal how the brain identifies individual words. It is also geared towards identifying whether or not this process is impacted by the skill of the reader. Does a stronger reader actually decode the words differently?

The answers to these questions may reveal why reading seems to come far easier to some than it does to others. A potential result of such research may include the development of better methods to help those with difficulty reading overcome such issues.