Neurofunctionally dissecting the reading system in children


  • Liebig Johanna
  • Froehlich Eva E
  • Morawetz Carmen
  • Braun Mario M
  • Jacobs Arthur M
  • Heekeren Hauke R
  • Ziegler Johannes C


  • Prelexical
  • Orthographic
  • Phonological
  • Lexico-semantic
  • Children
  • FMRI

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The reading system can be broken down into four basic subcomponents in charge of prelexical, orthographic, phonological, and lexico-semantic processes. These processes need to jointly work together to become a fluent and efficient reader. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), we systematically analyzed differences in neural activation patterns of these four basic subcomponents in children (N = 41, 9-13 years) using tasks specifically tapping each component (letter identification, orthographic decision, phonological decision, and semantic categorization). Regions of interest (ROI) were selected based on a meta-analysis of child reading and included the left ventral occipito-temporal cortex (vOT), left posterior parietal cortex (PPC), left inferior frontal gyrus (IFG), and bilateral supplementary motor area (SMA). Compared to a visual baseline task, enhanced activation in vOT and IFG was observed for all tasks with very little differences between tasks. Activity in the dorsal PPC system was confined to prelexical and phonological processing. Activity in the SMA was found in orthographic, phonological, and lexico-semantic tasks. Our results are consistent with the idea of an early engagement of the vOT accompanied by executive control functions in the frontal system, including the bilateral SMA.

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