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Trends Cogn Sci. 2011 Jun;15(6):254-62. doi: 10.1016/j.tics.2011.04.003. Epub 2011 May 16.

The unique role of the visual word form area in reading.

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Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche Médicale, Cognitive Neuroimaging Unit, Gif sur Yvette, 91191 France.


Reading systematically activates the left lateral occipitotemporal sulcus, at a site known as the visual word form area (VWFA). This site is reproducible across individuals/scripts, attuned to reading-specific processes, and partially selective for written strings relative to other categories such as line drawings. Lesions affecting the VWFA cause pure alexia, a selective deficit in word recognition. These findings must be reconciled with the fact that human genome evolution cannot have been influenced by such a recent and culturally variable activity as reading. Capitalizing on recent functional magnetic resonance imaging experiments, we provide strong corroborating evidence for the hypothesis that reading acquisition partially recycles a cortical territory evolved for object and face recognition, the prior properties of which influenced the form of writing systems.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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