Reading really is fundamental. Neurologically. (Or: A Good Book Is Universal.)

Nature reveals that no matter what language you’re reading, your brain lights up the same way when you do it:

Previous studies have suggested that alphabetic writing systems (such as French) and logographic ones (such as Chinese, in which single characters represent entire words) writing systems might engage different networks in the brain.

To explore this question, [Stanislas Dehaene, a cognitive neuroscientist the National Institute of Health and Medical Research in Gif-sur-Yvette, France,] and his colleagues used functional magnetic resonance imaging to examine brain activity in Chinese and French people while they read their native languages.

The researchers found that both Chinese and French people use the visual and gestural systems while reading their native language, but with different emphases that reflect the different demands of each language.

“Rather than focusing on ear and eye in reading, the authors rightly point out that hand and eye are critical players,” says Uta Frith, a cognitive neuroscientist at University College London. “This could lead into novel directions — for instance, it might provide answers why many people with dyslexia also have very poor handwriting and not just poor spelling.”