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Brain Lang. 2014 Nov;138:27-37. doi: 10.1016/j.bandl.2014.09.003. Epub 2014 Sep 29.

Speed discrimination predicts word but not pseudo-word reading rate in adults and children.

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Department of Psychology, Stanford University, Stanford, CA, United States; War Related Illness and Injury Study Center, Veterans Affairs, Palo Alto Health Care System (VAPAHCS), Palo Alto, CA, United States; Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, CA, United States.
Department of Psychology, Stanford University, Stanford, CA, United States. Electronic address:
Department of Psychology, Stanford University, Stanford, CA, United States.
Department of Psychology, Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles, CA, United States.


Visual processing in the magnocellular pathway is a reputed influence on word recognition and reading performance. However, the mechanisms behind this relationship are still unclear. To explore this concept, we measured reading rate, speed-discrimination, and contrast detection thresholds in adults and children with a wide range of reading abilities. We found that speed discrimination thresholds are higher in children than in adults and are correlated with age. Speed discrimination thresholds are also correlated with reading rates but only for real words, not pseudo-words. Conversely, we found no correlations between contrast detection thresholds and the reading rates. We also found no correlations between speed discrimination or contrast detection and WASI subtest scores. These findings indicate that familiarity is a factor in magnocellular operations that may influence reading rate. We suggest this effect supports the idea that the magnocellular pathway contributes to word reading through an analysis of letter position.


Contrast sensitivity; Dorsal stream; Magnocellular pathway; Reading; Speed discrimination

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