Magazine article Science News

Brain Study Finds Possible Word Center

Magazine article Science News

Brain Study Finds Possible Word Center

Article excerpt

An elaborate network of brain regions handles visual information and enables the eyes to serve as a window to the world. Two locations on this neural pathway, located near the base of the brain, may spark recognition and understanding of written words, according to a new study.

The findings support a theory that the ability to read depends on specific brain structures, assert Anna C. Nobre, a psychologist at the University of Oxford in England, and her colleagues. An opposing view holds that reading derives from more general brain activities, such as those responsible for sorting all sorts of objects into meaningful groups.

"These results suggest that there is a separate stream specialized for word recognition within the [lower] visual pathway," conclude Nobre and her coworkers in the Nov. 17 NATURE. "Damage to the word-recognition stream... may help to explain some forms of reading and object-naming deficits in patients with brain lesions."

Nobre's group studied 27 adults, age 18 to 55, undergoing brain examinations prior to possible neurosurgery for uncontrollable epileptic seizures. Minute electrodes implanted inside the skull of each participant picked up electrical activity at points along the bottom surface of the brain.

The researchers recorded patterns of electrical responses in the brain associated with reading five-word sentences that ended with a real word, a made-up word (such as "groad"), or a random string of letters. Another task required participants to identify a particular illustration, such as a face, or a colored pattern, such as a checkerboard, after viewing a series of four other drawings.

Two separate portions of the fusiform gyrus, a fold of tissue that runs lengthwise along the base of each side of the brain, showed distinctive electrical responses to patterns of letters. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.