Separable Roles for Attentional Control Sub-Systems in Reading Tasks: A Combined Behavioral and fMRI Study

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Abstract

Attentional control is important both for learning to read and for performing difficult reading tasks. A previous study invoked 2 mechanisms to explain reaction time (RT) differences between reading tasks with variable attentional demands. The present study combined behavioral and neuroimaging measures to test the hypotheses that there are 2 mechanisms of interaction between attentional control and reading; that these mechanisms are dissociable both behaviorally and neuro-anatomically; and that the 2 mechanisms involve functionally separable control systems. First, RT evidence was found in support of the 2-mechanism model, corroborating the previous study. Next, 2 sets of brain regions were identified as showing functional magnetic resonance imaging blood oxygen level-dependent activity that maps onto the 2-mechanism distinction. One set included bilateral Cingulo-opercular regions and mostly right-lateralized Dorsal Attention regions (CO/DA+). This CO/DA+ region set showed response properties consistent with a role in reporting which processing pathway (phonological or lexical) was biased for a particular trial. A second set was composed primarily of left-lateralized Frontal-parietal (FP) regions. Its signal properties were consistent with a role in response checking. These results demonstrate how the subcomponents of attentional control interact with subcomponents of reading processes in healthy young adults.

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