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Hum Brain Mapp. 2005 May;25(1):92-104.

Cross-cultural effect on the brain revisited: universal structures plus writing system variation.

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Learning Research and Development Center, Department of Psychology, Center for the Neural Basis of Cognition, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15221, USA.


Recognizing printed words requires the mapping of graphic forms, which vary with writing systems, to linguistic forms, which vary with languages. Using a newly developed meta-analytic approach, aggregated Gaussian-estimated sources (AGES; Chein et al. [2002]: Psychol Behav 77:635-639), we examined the neuroimaging results for word reading within and across writing systems and languages. To find commonalities, we compiled 25 studies in English and other Western European languages that use an alphabetic writing system, 9 studies of native Chinese reading, 5 studies of Japanese Kana (syllabic) reading, and 4 studies of Kanji (morpho-syllabic) reading. Using the AGES approach, we created meta-images within each writing system, isolated reliable foci of activation, and compared findings across writing systems and languages. The results suggest that these writing systems utilize a common network of regions in word processing. Writing systems engage largely the same systems in terms of gross cortical regions, but localization within those regions suggests differences across writing systems. In particular, the region known as the visual word form area (VWFA) shows strikingly consistent localization across tasks and across writing systems. This region in the left mid-fusiform gyrus is critical to word recognition across writing systems and languages.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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