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Nature. 1998 Jul 16;394(6690):274-7.

A multimodal language region in the ventral visual pathway.

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The Wellcome Department of Cognitive Neurology, Institute of Neurology, London, UK.


Reading words and naming pictures involves the association of visual stimuli with phonological and semantic knowledge. Damage to a region of the brain in the left basal posterior temporal lobe (BA37), which is strategically situated between the visual cortex and the more anterior temporal cortex, leads to reading and naming deficits. Additional evidence implicating this region in linguistic processing comes from functional neuroimaging studies of reading in normal subjects and subjects with developmental dyslexia. Here we test whether the visual component of reading is essential for activation of BA37 by comparing cortical activations elicited by word processing in congenitally blind, late-blind and sighted subjects using functional neuroimaging. Despite the different modalities used (visual and tactile), all groups of subjects showed a common activation of BA37 by words relative to non-word letter-strings. These findings agree with the proposal that BA37 is an association area that integrates converging inputs from many regions. Our study confirms a prediction of theories of brain function that depend on convergence zones; the absence of one input (that is, visual) does not alter the response properties of such a convergence region.

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