Catronas, D. 1 , Reis, A. 1 , Faísca, L. 1 , Fernandes, T. 2 & Araújo, S. 2
1 Center for Biomedical Research - CBMR, University of Algarve, Faro, Portugal
2 Faculdade de Psicologia, Universidade de Lisboa, Portugal
Typical readers process letters faster and differently than non-letter symbols at behaviour and brain levels. But what type of experience during learning assists the emergence of such a highly efficient system for letter recognition? Here we tested the hypothesis that visual letter recognition and learning is accelerated by training in the motor representations of letters through handwriting, beyond visual perceptual training. Two groups of adults received grapho-phonological training during three consecutive days in a novel syllabic script either in a visual-only context (no motor actions involved) or in a visual-motor context (allied with symbol handwriting). Learning benefits (pre-to-post-training gains) was assessed with a four-alternative forced choice task, where participants decided which of the symbols corresponded to the spoken syllable, during eye-movements recording. Before training, groups did not differentiate in eyetracking parameters, while learning gains were greater for the visual-motor group, who showed significantly higher preference towards the target letter than the visual-only group, as indicated in shorter viewing times (gaze duration) over distractors. The present results thus suggest that training the specific gesture, writing code associated with the letter forms accelerates grapho-phonological learning and letter recognition and discrimination, mirrored in oculomotor markers.