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Brain Topogr. 2006 Summer;18(4):233-9. Epub 2006 Jul 15.

FMRI of ventral and dorsal processing streams in basic reading processes: insular sensitivity to phonology.

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Cognitive Neuroimaging Lab, Department of Psychology, College of Arts and Science, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada.


Most current models of the neurophysiology of basic reading processes agree on a system involving two cortical streams: a ventral stream (occipital-temporal) used when accessing familiar words encoded in lexical memory, and a dorsal stream (occipital-parietal-frontal) used when phonetically decoding words (i.e., mapping sublexical spelling onto sounds). The models diverge, however, on the issue of whether the insular cortex is involved. The present fMRI study required participants to read aloud exception words (e.g., 'one', which must be read via lexical memory) and pseudohomophones (e.g., 'wun', which must be read via sublexical spelling to sound translation) to examine the processing streams as well as the insular cortex, and their relationship to lexical and sublexical reading processes. The present study supports the notion of independent ventral-lexical and dorsal-sublexical streams, and further suggests the insular cortex to be sensitive to phonological processing (particularly sublexical spelling-sound translation). These latter findings illuminate the nature of insular activity during reading, which must be explored further in future studies, and accounted for in models of the neurophysiology of reading.

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