The interactive account of brain activation during reading

Price, C.

Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging, UCL

Reading is one of the most sophisticated human skills. It requires unique cognitive processing but how is it special at the neural level? Lesion and functional imaging studies have highlighted the important contribution of the left ventral occipito-temporal cortex. Damage to this area impairs reading more than other language skills. Activation in this area is higher for reading than auditory language tasks; and increases in response to word-like stimuli when children are learning to read. This set of results suggest a brain area that becomes selective to visual word forms but such an explanation can not explain why the same left ventral occipito-temporal area is also activated by a range of other tasks that do not involve orthographic processing. In my talk, I will discuss how distributed and interactive neural processing can explain the complicated response functions in the left occipito-temporal cortex and the reading impairments that result from left occipito-temporal damage.