August 2023
Volume 23, Issue 9
Open Access
Vision Sciences Society Annual Meeting Abstract  |   August 2023
How reading acquisition changes the landscape of the function within the visual word form area
Author Affiliations
  • Jin Li
    The Ohio State University
  • Patricia Stefancin-Resnick
    The Ohio State University
  • Zeynep Saygin
    The Ohio State University
Journal of Vision August 2023, Vol.23, 5837. doi:
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      Jin Li, Patricia Stefancin-Resnick, Zeynep Saygin; How reading acquisition changes the landscape of the function within the visual word form area. Journal of Vision 2023;23(9):5837.

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      © ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)

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The visual word form area (lVWFA) is an experience-dependent region in left ventral temporal cortex that responds to written words. However, it remains unclear that what this region does prior to literacy, how reading development changes the landscape of selectivity within the region, and how this selectivity relates to different behavioral assessments of reading. We explored these questions by scanning a group of young children (3-9 yrs) during a visual fMRI localizer to assess activation to different visual categories (i.e., words, objects and faces) and an auditory language localizer to assess high-level linguistic and phonological processing. Subjects were divided into motion-matched prereaders and readers. First, we confirmed that lVWFA only shows word-selectivity in readers but not prereaders even though prereaders already show significant face- and object-selectivity in adjacent category-selective regions. Interestingly, we found that similar to readers, prereaders have a lVWFA that shows sensitivity to auditory language and phonological perception. We replicated this in a subset of longitudinal data where we defined the lVWFA at a later time point (TP2) and registered it back to the earlier time point (TP1) brain of the same individual. We also found that sensitivity to phonological processing at TP1 in the lVWFA is correlated with phonological decoding ability at TP2. Altogether, combining both cross-sectional and longitudinal data in young children, we find that even prior to reading, the lVWFA is not part of adjacent face or object cortex but instead shows sensitivity to auditory language, presumably due to its connectivity with language cortex. The lVWFA’s sensitivity to word and phonemic information, even prior to reading acquisition, may contribute to ongoing development of visual and phonological aspects of reading.


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