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Cortex. 2014 Apr;53:90-106. doi: 10.1016/j.cortex.2014.01.003. Epub 2014 Jan 15.

Neural division of labor in reading is constrained by culture: a training study of reading Chinese characters.

Author information

1
Department of Psychology, University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT, USA; Haskins Laboratories, New Haven, CT, USA. Electronic address: jingjing.jj.zhao@gmail.com.
2
State Key Laboratory for Cognitive Neuroscience and Learning, Beijing Normal University, Beijing, China.
3
Haskins Laboratories, New Haven, CT, USA.
4
Department of Psychology, University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT, USA; Haskins Laboratories, New Haven, CT, USA.
5
Department of Psychology, University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT, USA; Haskins Laboratories, New Haven, CT, USA; Department of Linguistics, Yale University, New Haven, CT, USA; Department of Diagnostic Radiology, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT, USA.
6
State Key Laboratory for Cognitive Neuroscience and Learning, Beijing Normal University, Beijing, China. Electronic address: shuh@bnu.edu.cn.
7
Department of Psychology, University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT, USA; Haskins Laboratories, New Haven, CT, USA. Electronic address: jay.rueckl@uconn.edu.

Abstract

Word reading in alphabetic language involves a cortical system with multiple components whose division of labor depends on the transparency of the writing system. To gain insight about the neural division of labor between phonology and semantics subserving word reading in Chinese, a deep non-alphabetic writing system, functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) was used to investigate the effects of phonological and semantic training on the cortical circuitry for oral naming of Chinese characters. In a training study, we examined whether a training task that differentially focused readers' attention on the phonological or semantic properties of a Chinese character changes the patterns of cortical activation that was evoked by that character in a subsequent naming task. Our imaging results corroborate that the cortical regions underlying reading in Chinese largely overlap the left-hemisphere reading system responsible for reading in alphabetic languages, with some cortical regions in the left-hemisphere uniquely recruited for reading in Chinese. However, in contrast to findings from studies of English word naming, we observed considerable overlap in the neural activation patterns associated with phonological and semantic training on naming Chinese characters, which we suggest may reflect a balanced neural division of labor between phonology and semantics in Chinese character reading. The equitable division of labor for Chinese reading might be driven by the special statistical structure of the writing system, which includes equally systematic mappings in the correspondences between written forms and their pronunciations and meanings.

KEYWORDS:

Chinese; Division of labor; Learning; Reading; fMRI

PMID:
24607883
PMCID:
PMC4013681
DOI:
10.1016/j.cortex.2014.01.003
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article
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