Selectivity of N170 in the left hemisphere as an electrophysiological marker for expertise in reading Chinese

Jing Zhao, Su Li, Si En Lin, Xiao Hua Cao, Sheng He, Xu Chu Weng

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Scopus citations

Abstract

Objective The left-lateralized N170, an event-related potential component consistently shown in response to alphabetic words, is a robust electrophysiological marker for reading expertise in an alphabetic language. In contrast, such a marker is lacking for expertise in reading Chinese, because the existing results about the lateralization of N170 for Chinese characters are mixed, reflecting complicated factors such as top-down modulation that contribute to the relative magnitudes of N170 in the left and right hemispheres. The present study aimed to explore a potential electrophysiological marker for reading expertise in Chinese with minimal top-down influence. Methods We recorded N170 responses to Chinese characters and three kinds of control stimuli in a content-irrelevant task, minimizing potential top-down effects. Results Direct comparison of the N170 amplitude in response to Chinese characters between the hemispheres showed a marginally significant left-lateralization effect. However, detailed analyses of N170 in each hemisphere revealed a more robust pattern of left-lateralization - the N170 in the left but not the right hemisphere differentiated Chinese characters from control stimuli. Conclusion These results suggest that the selectivity of N170 (a greater N170 in response to Chinese characters than to control stimuli) within the left hemisphere rather than the hemispheric difference of N170 with regard to Chinese characters is an electrophysiological marker for expertise in reading Chinese.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)577-584
Number of pages8
JournalNeuroscience Bulletin
Volume28
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 2012

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Acknowledgements: This work was supported by National Natural Science Foundation of China (31070905, 30870779). We thank Hsuan Chih Chen for discussion on task designs and Axel Mecklinger for comments on early version of this manuscript.

Keywords

  • Chinese character
  • Left-lateralization
  • N170

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