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Neuroimage. 2006 Nov 1;33(2):739-48. Epub 2006 Sep 7.

Tuning of the human left fusiform gyrus to sublexical orthographic structure.

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Department of Neurology, Medical College of Wisconsin, 9200 W. Wisconsin Ave., Milwaukee, WI 53226, USA.


Neuropsychological and neurophysiological evidence point to a role for the left fusiform gyrus in visual word recognition, but the specific nature of this role remains a topic of debate. The aim of this study was to measure the sensitivity of this region to sublexical orthographic structure. We measured blood oxygenation (BOLD) changes in the brain with functional magnetic resonance imaging while fluent readers of English viewed meaningless letter strings. The stimuli varied systematically in their approximation to English orthography, as measured by the probability of occurrence of letters and sequential letter pairs (bigrams) comprising the string. A whole-brain analysis showed a single region in the lateral left fusiform gyrus where BOLD signal increased with letter sequence probability; no other brain region showed this response pattern. The results suggest tuning of this cortical area to letter probabilities as a result of perceptual experience and provide a possible neural correlate for the 'word superiority effect' observed in letter perception research.

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