The Visual Word Form Area: evidence from an fMRI study of implicit processing of Chinese characters

Neuroimage. 2008 Apr 15;40(3):1350-61. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2007.10.014. Epub 2007 Oct 25.


A notable controversy in neurolinguistics is whether there is a particular brain area specialized for visual word recognition within the visual ventral stream. We investigated this question via implicit processing of Chinese characters. Implicit processing of four types of stimuli--real characters, pseudo characters, artificial characters, and checkerboard--in two different sizes, were compared in 14 normal participants using functional MRI (fMRI) with a size judgment task. The results showed that when the three character types were contrasted to one another, there was significantly greater activation in the left middle fusiform gyrus during real and pseudo character processing compared to artificial characters. Moreover, individual analysis revealed that the coordinates were consistent with the Visual Word Form Area (VWFA) reported for alphabetic scripts. Results also showed a consistent activation in the left middle frontal gyrus (BA 9) for real and pseudo characters. The relation between this region and the VWFA in Characters processing still needs further investigation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Fixation, Ocular
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology
  • Reading*
  • Visual Cortex / physiology*