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One functional anatomical model of reading, drawing on human neuropsychological and neuroimaging data, proposes that a region in left ventral occipitotemporal cortex (vOT) becomes, through experience, specialized for written word perception. We tested this hypothesis by presenting numbers in orthographical and digital form with two task demands, phonological and numerical. We observed a main effect of task on left vOT activity but not stimulus type, with increased activity during the phonological task that was also associated with increased activity in the left inferior frontal gyrus, a region implicated in speech production. Region-of-interest analysis confirmed that there was equal activity for orthographical and digital written forms in the left vOT during the phonological task, despite greater visual complexity of the orthographical forms. This evidence is incompatible with a predominantly feedforward model of written word recognition that proposes that the left vOT is a specialized cortical module for word recognition in literate subjects. Rather, the physiological data presented here fits better with interactive computational models of reading that propose that written word recognition emerges from bidirectional interactions between three processes: visual, phonological, and semantic. Further, the present study is in accord with others that indicate that the left vOT is a route through which nonlinguistic stimuli, perhaps high contrast two-dimensional objects in particular, gain access to a predominantly left-lateralized language and semantic system.

Original publication




Journal article


J Neurosci

Publication Date





14631 - 14638


Adult, Analysis of Variance, Brain Mapping, Female, Functional Laterality, Humans, Image Processing, Computer-Assisted, Language, Magnetic Resonance Imaging, Male, Peroxides, Photic Stimulation, Reaction Time, Reading, Urea, Vision, Ocular, Visual Cortex, Vocabulary