Multimodal MRI characterization of visual word recognition: an integrative view
Lerma Usabiaga, Garikoitz
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The ventral occipito-temporal (vOT) association cortex contributes significantly to recognize different types of visual patterns. It is widely accepted that a subset of this circuitry, including the visual word form area (VWFA), becomes trained to perform the task of rapidly identifying word forms. An important open question is the computational role of this circuitry: To what extent is part of a bottom-up hierarchical processing of information on visual word recognition and/or is involved in processing top-down signals from higher-level language regions. This doctoral dissertation thesis proposal is aimed at characterizing the vOT reading circuitry using behavioral, functional, structural and quantitative MRI indexes, and linking its computations to the other two important regions within the language network: the posterior parietal cortex (pPC) and the inferior frontal gyrus (IFG). Results revealed that two distinct word-responsive areas can be segregated in the vOT: one responsible for visual feature extraction that is connected to the intraparietal sulcus via the vertical occipital fasciculus and a second one responsible for semantic processing that is connected to the angular gyrus via the posterior arcuate fasciculus and to the IFG via the anterior arcuate fasciculus. Importantly, reading behavior was predicted by functional activation in regions identified along the vOT, pPC and IFG, as well as by structural properties of the white matter fiber tracts linking them. The present work constitutes a critical step in the creation of a highly detailed characterization of the early stages of reading at the individual-subject level and to establish a baseline model and parameter range that might serve to clarify functional and structural differences between typical, poor and atypical readers.