Evidence for highly selective neuronal tuning to whole words in the "visual word form area"

Neuron. 2009 Apr 30;62(2):199-204. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2009.03.017.


Theories of reading have posited the existence of a neural representation coding for whole real words (i.e., an orthographic lexicon), but experimental support for such a representation has proved elusive. Using fMRI rapid adaptation techniques, we provide evidence that the human left ventral occipitotemporal cortex (specifically the "visual word form area," VWFA) contains a representation based on neurons highly selective for individual real words, in contrast to current theories that posit a sublexical representation in the VWFA.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Attention / physiology
  • Discrimination, Psychological / physiology*
  • Female
  • Functional Laterality / physiology
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted / methods
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods
  • Male
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Occipital Lobe / blood supply
  • Occipital Lobe / cytology*
  • Oxygen / blood
  • Pattern Recognition, Visual / physiology*
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Reaction Time / physiology
  • Reading
  • Semantics
  • Temporal Lobe / blood supply
  • Temporal Lobe / cytology*
  • Vocabulary*
  • Young Adult


  • Oxygen