Spoken language is a distinctive trace of our species and it is naturally acquired during infancy. Written language, in contrast, is artificial, and the correspondences between arbitrary visual symbols and the spoken language for reading and writing should be explicitly learned with external help. In this paper, I present several examples of how written language acquisition is both shaped by and has an impact on brain function and cognition. They show in one hand how our phylogenetic legacy influences education and on the other hand how ontogenetic needs for education can rapidly subdue deeply rooted neurocognitive mechanisms. The understanding of this bidirectional influences provides a more dynamic view of how plasticity interfaces phylogeny and ontogeny in human learning, with implications for both neurosciences and education.