Previous studies have identified an area in the left lateral fusiform cortex that is highly responsive to written words and has been named the visual word form area (VWFA). However, there is disagreement on the specific functional role of this area in word recognition. Chinese characters, which are dramatically different from Roman alphabets in the visual form and in the form to phonological mapping, provide a unique opportunity to investigate the properties of the VWFA. Specifically, to clarify the orthographic sensitivity in the mid-fusiform cortex, we compared fMRI response amplitudes (Exp. 1) as well as the spatial patterns of response across multiple voxels (Exp. 2) between Chinese characters and stimuli derived from Chinese characters with different orthographic properties. The fMRI response amplitude results suggest the existence of orthographic sensitivity in the VWFA. The results from multi-voxel pattern analysis indicate that spatial distribution of the responses across voxels in the occipitotemporal cortex contained discriminative information between the different types of character-related stimuli. These results together suggest that the orthographic rules are likely represented in a distributed neural network with the VWFA containing the most specific information regarding a stimulus' orthographic regularity.
- Chinese character
- Multi-voxel pattern analysis (MVPA)
- Visual word form area (VWFA)