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Front Hum Neurosci. 2013 Sep 2;7:518. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2013.00518. eCollection 2013.

Neural networks underlying contributions from semantics in reading aloud.

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Department of Psychology, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey Newark, NJ, USA.


Reading is an essential part of contemporary society, yet much is still unknown about the physiological underpinnings of its information processing components. Two influential cognitive models of reading, the connectionist and dual-route cascaded models, offer very different accounts, yet evidence for one or the other remains equivocal. These models differ in several ways, including the role of semantics (word meaning) in mapping spelling to sound. We used a new effective connectivity algorithm, IMaGES, to provide a network-level perspective on these network-level models. Left hemisphere regions of interest were defined based on main effects in functional magnetic resonance imaging and included two regions linked with semantic processing-angular gyrus (AG) and inferior temporal sulcus (ITS)-and two regions linked with phonological processing-posterior superior temporal gyrus (pSTG) and posterior middle temporal gyrus (pMTG). Participants read aloud words of high or low spelling-sound consistency, word frequency, and imageability. Only the connectionist model predicted increased contributions from semantic areas with those computing phonology for low-consistency words. Effective connectivity analyses revealed that areas supporting semantic processing (e.g., the ITS) interacted with phonological areas (e.g., the pSTG), with the pattern changing as a function of word properties. Connectivity from semantic to phonological areas emerged for high- compared to low-imageability words, and a similar pattern emerged for low-consistency words, though only under certain conditions. Analyses of individual differences also showed that variation in the strength of modulation of ITS by AG was associated with reading aloud performance. Overall, these results suggest that connections with semantic processing areas are not only associated with reading aloud, but that these connections are also associated with optimal reading performance.


effective connectivity; fMRI; orthography; phonology; reading; semantics

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