Illustration for article titled Stroke victim learns to read with his tongue

Several years ago, mystery author Howard Engel awoke to discover that he couldn't read the morning paper. In fact, he couldn't read anything. But he could still write. What happened next is one of the most bizarre neuroscience cases ever.


NPR has a story about how Engel wrote to Oliver Sacks, who covers Engel's story in his latest book, The Mind's Eye. According to NPR, Engel's condition is a rare one caused by a stroke that affected his visual cortex:

Engel couldn't see words with his eyes. His visual cortex was broken. But he could "see" when he used the motor part of his brain, first by tracing letters on a page, then by "writing" those same letters in the air, and then, strangely, when he shifted to copying letters with his tongue on the roof of his mouth. Tongue-copying was the fastest.

Over the years, says Sacks, Engel has learned to read with his tongue, flicking the shape of the letters on his front teeth. Engel has reached the point where he can almost keep up with the subtitles in a foreign film. He says he can get about half the words before they flash off.


Since his stroke in 2002, Engel has written two novels.

San Francisco artist Lev Yilmaz tells the story in pictures:

Click to view

via NPR

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