Saturday, March 12, 2016

Brain Processes Written Words as Unique Objects

The study:

Evidence for Highly Selective Neuronal Tuning to Whole Words in the “Visual Word Form Area”
Laurie S. Glezer, Xiong Jiang, Maximilian Riesenhuber


"Theories of reading have posited the existence of a neural representation coding for whole real words (i.e., an orthographic lexicon), but experimental support for such a representation has proved elusive. Using fMRI rapid adaptation techniques, we provide evidence that the human left ventral occipitotemporal cortex (specifically the “visual word form area,” VWFA) contains a representation based on neurons highly selective for individual real words, in contrast to current theories that posit a sublexical representation in the VWFA."

Full Text 

Reader-friendly news article

Brain processes written words as unique 'objects,' GUMC neuroscientists say (EureakAlert!)

"In their experiments, the researchers looked at the response between two visually similar normal words that shared all letters but one (i.e. 'boat' and 'coat') and found that the neural response to this condition "looked just like when participants saw two words that shared no letters, for example 'coat' and 'fish',"

The brain can add new words to its “visual dictionary” even if they are made up. The neurons in the 'visual word form area' are tuned to whole real words and this selectivity is developed through experience with words."

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