FMRI of two measures of phonological processing in visual word recognition: Ecological validity matters

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Previous functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) studies have investigated the role of phonological processing by utilizing nonword rhyming decision tasks (e.g., Pugh et al., 1996). Although such tasks clearly engage phonological components of visual word recognition, it is clear that decision tasks are more cognitively involved than the simple overt naming tasks, which more closely map onto normal reading behavior. Our research aim for this study was to examine the advantages of overt naming tasks for fMRI studies of word recognition processes. Process models are presented to highlight the similarities and differences between two cognitive tasks that are used in the word recognition literature, pseudohomophone naming (e.g., pronounce BRANE) and rhyming decision (e.g., do LEAT and JEAT rhyme?). An fMRI study identified several differences in cortical activation associated with the differences observed in the process models. Specifically, the results show that the overt naming task involved the insular cortex and inferior frontal gyrus, whereas the rhyming decision task engaged the temporal–parietal regions. It is argued that future fMRI research examining the neuroanatomical components of basic visual word recognition utilize overt naming tasks.

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