The orthographic sensitivity to written Chinese in the occipital-temporal cortex

Haicheng Liu, Yi Jiang, Bo Zhang, Lifei Ma, Sheng He, Xuchu Weng

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11 Scopus citations


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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)387-396
Number of pages10
JournalExperimental Brain Research
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2013

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Acknowledgments This research was supported by grants from the National Natural Science Foundation of China (31070905); the National Social Science Foundation of China (11AZD119); National Science Foundation of US (0818588); United States NIH (R01-EY002934); and Natural Science Foundation of Hainan Province of China (312092).


  • Chinese character
  • Multi-voxel pattern analysis (MVPA)
  • Orthography
  • Visual word form area (VWFA)


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