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J Neurosci. 2010 Apr 14;30(15):5229-33. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.4448-09.2010.

During visual word recognition, phonology is accessed within 100 ms and may be mediated by a speech production code: evidence from magnetoencephalography.

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Department of Psychology, University of York, York YO10 5DD, United Kingdom.


Debate surrounds the precise cortical location and timing of access to phonological information during visual word recognition. Therefore, using whole-head magnetoencephalography (MEG), we investigated the spatiotemporal pattern of brain responses induced by a masked pseudohomophone priming task. Twenty healthy adults read target words that were preceded by one of three kinds of nonword prime: pseudohomophones (e.g., brein-BRAIN), where four of five letters are shared between prime and target, and the pronunciation is the same; matched orthographic controls (e.g., broin-BRAIN), where the same four of five letters are shared between prime and target but pronunciation differs; and unrelated controls (e.g., lopus-BRAIN), where neither letters nor pronunciation are shared between prime and target. All three priming conditions induced activation in the pars opercularis of the left inferior frontal gyrus (IFGpo) and the left precentral gyrus (PCG) within 100 ms of target word onset. However, for the critical comparison that reveals a processing difference specific to phonology, we found that the induced pseudohomophone priming response was significantly stronger than the orthographic priming response in left IFG/PCG at approximately 100 ms. This spatiotemporal concurrence demonstrates early phonological influences during visual word recognition and is consistent with phonological access being mediated by a speech production code.

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