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Biophysics - Neuroscience - Radiology and Medical Imaging

Robust and Task-Independent Spatial Profile of the Visual Word Form Activation in Fusiform Cortex
Published: Friday, October 14, 2011
Author: Lifei Ma et al.

by Lifei Ma, Yi Jiang, Jian'e Bai, Qiyong Gong, Haicheng Liu, Hsuan-Chih Chen, Sheng He, Xuchu Weng

Written language represents a special category of visual information. There is strong evidence for the existence of a cortical region in ventral occipitotemporal cortex for processing the visual form of written words. However, due to inconsistent findings obtained with different tasks, the level of specialization and selectivity of this so called visual word form area (VWFA) remains debated. In this study, we examined category selectivity for Chinese characters, a non-alphabetic script, in native Chinese readers. In contrast to traditional approaches of examining response levels in a restricted predefined region of interest (ROI), a detailed distribution of the BOLD signal across the mid-fusiform cortical surface and the spatial patterns of responses to Chinese characters were obtained. Results show that a region tuned for Chinese characters could be consistently found in the lateral part of the left fusiform gyrus in Chinese readers, and this spatial pattern of selectivity for written words was not influenced by top-down tasks such as phonological or semantic modulations. These results provide strong support for the robust spatial coding of category selective response in the mid-fusiform cortex, and demonstrate the utility of the spatial distribution analysis as a more meaningful approach to examine functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) data.