Language differences in the brain network for reading in naturalistic story reading and lexical decision

Xiaojuan Wang, Jianfeng Yang, Jie Yang, W. Einar Mencl, Hua Shu, Jason David Zevin

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    21 Citations (Scopus)
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    Abstract

    Differences in how writing systems represent language raise important questions about whether there could be a universal functional architecture for reading across languages. In order to study potential language differences in the neural networks that support reading skill, we collected fMRI data from readers of alphabetic (English) and morpho-syllabic (Chinese) writing systems during two reading tasks. In one, participants read short stories under conditions that approximate natural reading, and in the other, participants decided whether individual stimuli were real words or not. Prior work comparing these two writing systems has overwhelmingly used meta-linguistic tasks, generally supporting the conclusion that the reading system is organized differently for skilled readers of Chinese and English. We observed that language differences in the reading network were greatly dependent on task. In lexical decision, a pattern consistent with prior research was observed in which the Middle Frontal Gyrus (MFG) and right Fusiform Gyrus (rFFG) were more active for Chinese than for English, whereas the posterior temporal sulcus was more active for English than for Chinese. We found a very different pattern of language effects in a naturalistic reading paradigm, during which significant differences were only observed in visual regions not typically considered specific to the reading network, and the middle temporal gyrus, which is thought to be important for direct mapping of orthography to semantics. Indeed, in areas that are often discussed as supporting distinct cognitive or linguistic functions between the two languages, we observed interaction. Specifically, language differences were most pronounced in MFG and rFFG during the lexical decision task, whereas no language differences were observed in these areas during silent reading of text for comprehension.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article number0124388
    Pages (from-to)1-25
    Number of pages25
    JournalPLoS ONE
    Volume10
    Issue number5
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 27 May 2015

    Bibliographical note

    Copyright the Author(s) 2015. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.

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