Manipulation of length and lexicality localizes the functional neuroanatomy of phonological processing in adult readers

Jessica A. Church, David A. Balota, Steven E. Petersen, Bradley L. Schlaggar

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37 Scopus citations


In a previous study of single word reading, regions in the left supramarginal gyrus and left angular gyrus showed positive BOLD activity in children but significantly less activity in adults for high-frequencywords [Church, J. A., Coalson, R. S., Lugar, H. M., Petersen, S. E., & Schlaggar, B. L. A developmental fMRI study of reading and repetition reveals changes in phonological and visual mechanisms over age. Cerebral Cortex, 18, 2054-2065, 2008]. This developmental decrease may reflect decreased reliance on phonological processing for familiar stimuli in adults. Therefore, in the present study, variables thought to influence phonological demand (string length and lexicality) were manipulated. Length and lexicality effects in the brain were explored using both ROI and whole-brain approaches. In the ROI analysis, the supramarginal and angular regions from the previous study were applied to this study. The supramarginal region showed a significant positive effect of length, consistent with a role in phonological processing, whereas the angular region showed only negative deflections from baseline with a strong effect of lexicality and other weaker effects. At the whole-brain level, varying effects of length and lexicality and their interactions were observed in 85 regions throughout the brain. The application of hierarchical clustering analysis to the BOLD time course data derived from these regions revealed seven clusters, with potentially revealing anatomical locations. Of note, a left angular gyrus region was the sole constituent of one cluster. Taken together, these findings in adult readers (1) provide support for a widespread set of brain regions affected by lexical variables, (2) corroborate a role for phonological processing in the left supramarginal gyrus, and (3) do not support a strong role for phonological processing in the left angular gyrus.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1475-1493
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Cognitive Neuroscience
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2011


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