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Anatomy and physiology of word-selective visual cortex: from visual features to lexical processing


Caffarra, Sendy; Karipidis, Iliana I; Yablonski, Maya; Yeatman, Jason D (2021). Anatomy and physiology of word-selective visual cortex: from visual features to lexical processing. Brain Structure & Function, 226(9):3051-3065.

Abstract

Over the past 2 decades, researchers have tried to uncover how the human brain can extract linguistic information from a sequence of visual symbols. The description of how the brain's visual system processes words and enables reading has improved with the progressive refinement of experimental methodologies and neuroimaging techniques. This review provides a brief overview of this research journey. We start by describing classical models of object recognition in non-human primates, which represent the foundation for many of the early models of visual word recognition in humans. We then review functional neuroimaging studies investigating the word-selective regions in visual cortex. This research led to the differentiation of highly specialized areas, which are involved in the analysis of different aspects of written language. We then consider the corresponding anatomical measurements and provide a description of the main white matter pathways carrying neural signals crucial to word recognition. Finally, in an attempt to integrate structural, functional, and electrophysiological findings, we propose a view of visual word recognition, accounting for spatial and temporal facets of word-selective neural processes. This multi-modal perspective on the neural circuitry of literacy highlights the relevance of a posterior-anterior differentiation in ventral occipitotemporal cortex for visual processing of written language and lexical features. It also highlights unanswered questions that can guide us towards future research directions. Bridging measures of brain structure and function will help us reach a more precise understanding of the transformation from vision to language.

Abstract

Over the past 2 decades, researchers have tried to uncover how the human brain can extract linguistic information from a sequence of visual symbols. The description of how the brain's visual system processes words and enables reading has improved with the progressive refinement of experimental methodologies and neuroimaging techniques. This review provides a brief overview of this research journey. We start by describing classical models of object recognition in non-human primates, which represent the foundation for many of the early models of visual word recognition in humans. We then review functional neuroimaging studies investigating the word-selective regions in visual cortex. This research led to the differentiation of highly specialized areas, which are involved in the analysis of different aspects of written language. We then consider the corresponding anatomical measurements and provide a description of the main white matter pathways carrying neural signals crucial to word recognition. Finally, in an attempt to integrate structural, functional, and electrophysiological findings, we propose a view of visual word recognition, accounting for spatial and temporal facets of word-selective neural processes. This multi-modal perspective on the neural circuitry of literacy highlights the relevance of a posterior-anterior differentiation in ventral occipitotemporal cortex for visual processing of written language and lexical features. It also highlights unanswered questions that can guide us towards future research directions. Bridging measures of brain structure and function will help us reach a more precise understanding of the transformation from vision to language.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, further contribution
Communities & Collections:04 Faculty of Medicine > Psychiatric University Hospital Zurich > Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
Dewey Decimal Classification:610 Medicine & health
Scopus Subject Areas:Health Sciences > Anatomy
Life Sciences > General Neuroscience
Health Sciences > Histology
Uncontrolled Keywords:Diffusion MRI; Reading; VWFA; Ventral occipitotemporal cortex; Word recognition; fMRI.
Language:English
Date:December 2021
Deposited On:25 Jan 2024 13:31
Last Modified:30 Jun 2024 01:37
Publisher:Springer
ISSN:1863-2653
Additional Information:This is a post-peer-review, pre-copyedit version of an article published in "Brain Structure & Function". The final authenticated version is available online at: https://doi.org/10.1007/s00429-021-02384-8
OA Status:Green
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1007/s00429-021-02384-8
PubMed ID:34636985
Project Information:
  • : FunderH2020
  • : Grant ID837228
  • : Project TitleENGRAVINg - Engaging Grammar and Visual Networks
  • : FunderRita Levi Montalcini
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  • : FunderStanford Maternal and Child Health Research Institute
  • : Grant ID
  • : Project Title
  • : FunderZuckerman-CHE STEM Leadership Program
  • : Grant ID
  • : Project Title
  • : FunderJacobs Foundation
  • : Grant ID
  • : Project Title