Phonological activation in pure alexia


  • Montant M
  • Behrmann M

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Pure alexia is a reading impairment in which patients appear to read letter-by-letter. This disorder is typically accounted for in terms of a peripheral deficit that occurs early on in the reading system, prior to the activation of orthographic word representations. The peripheral interpretation of pure alexia has recently been challenged by the phonological deficit hypothesis, which claims that a postlexical disconnection between orthographic and phonological information contributes to or is responsible for the disorder. Because this hypothesis was mainly supported by data from a single patient (IH), who also has surface dyslexia, the present study re-examined this hypothesis with another pure alexic patient (EL). In contrast to patient IH, EL did not show any evidence of a phonological deficit. Her pattern of performance in naming was not qualitatively different from that of normal readers; she appeared to be reading via a mode of processing resulting in strong serial and lexical effects, a pattern often observed in normal individuals reading unfamiliar stimuli. The present results do not obviously support the phonological hypothesis and are more consistent with peripheral interpretations of pure alexia. The peripheral and the phonological accounts of pure alexia are discussed in light of two current models of visual word recognition.

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