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Brain activity during reading: The effects of exposure duration and task

Lookup NU author(s): Professor David Howard


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Brain activity during reading tasks was investigated using PET. The aim was to account for differences in the results of two previous studies [those of Petersen et al. (Science 1990; 249: 1041-4) and Howard et al. (Brain 1992; 115: 1769-82)] by systematically varying the type of reading task and the exposure duration of the word stimuli. Both variables strongly influenced patterns of brain activity. There were three types of cask: (i) reading aloud; (ii) reading silently, and (iii) lexical decision on visually presented words and pseudowords. Reading aloud and reading silently engaged the left middle and superior temporal regions, confirming the important role of these areas in visual word processing. The areas principally engaged during lexical decision were the left inferior and middle frontal cortices and the supplementary motor area; activity in these areas suggests that the subjects were using a phonological strategy to perform the task. There was also a significant effect of exposure duration, with activity being greater for short (150 ms) exposure durations than for long (1000 ms or 981 ms) exposure durations. We conclude that until we understand how subtle variations in experimental design influence brain activity during reading tasks, the association of specific processing functions with individual anatomical areas activated during reading is premature.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Price CJ, Wise RJS, Watson JDG, Patterson K, Howard D, Frackowiak RSJ

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Brain

Year: 1994

Volume: 117

Issue: 6

Pages: 1255-1269

Print publication date: 01/12/1994

ISSN (print): 0006-8950

ISSN (electronic): 1460-2156

Publisher: Oxford University Press


DOI: 10.1093/brain/117.6.1255

Notes: Times Cited: 190 Article 6 QD046 BRAIN


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