Learning to see words

Annu Rev Psychol. 2012;63:31-53. doi: 10.1146/annurev-psych-120710-100434. Epub 2011 Jul 29.


Skilled reading requires recognizing written words rapidly; functional neuroimaging research has clarified how the written word initiates a series of responses in visual cortex. These responses are communicated to circuits in ventral occipitotemporal (VOT) cortex that learn to identify words rapidly. Structural neuroimaging has further clarified aspects of the white matter pathways that communicate reading signals between VOT and language systems. We review this circuitry, its development, and its deficiencies in poor readers. This review emphasizes data that measure the cortical responses and white matter pathways in individual subjects rather than group differences. Such methods have the potential to clarify why a child has difficulty learning to read and to offer guidance about the interventions that may be useful for that child.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Functional Neuroimaging
  • Humans
  • Language
  • Learning / physiology*
  • Reading*
  • Visual Cortex / physiology*
  • Visual Pathways / physiology*
  • Vocabulary