Evaluating cognitive models of visual word recognition using fMRI: Effects of lexical and sublexical variables

Neuroimage. 2016 Mar:128:328-341. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2016.01.013. Epub 2016 Jan 13.


In this study predictions of the dual-route cascaded (DRC) model of word reading were tested using fMRI. Specifically, patterns of co-localization were investigated: (a) between pseudoword length effects and a pseudowords vs. fixation contrast, to reveal the sublexical grapho-phonemic conversion (GPC) system; and (b) between word frequency effects and a words vs. pseudowords contrast, to reveal the orthographic and phonological lexicon. Forty four native speakers of Greek were scanned at 3T in an event-related lexical decision task with three event types: (a) 150 words in which frequency, length, bigram and syllable frequency, neighborhood, and orthographic consistency were decorrelated; (b) 150 matched pseudowords; and (c) fixation. Whole-brain analysis failed to reveal the predicted co-localizations. Further analysis with participant-specific regions of interest defined within masks from the group contrasts revealed length effects in left inferior parietal cortex and frequency effects in the left middle temporal gyrus. These findings could be interpreted as partially consistent with the existence of the GPC system and phonological lexicon of the model, respectively. However, there was no evidence in support of an orthographic lexicon, weakening overall support for the model. The results are discussed with respect to the prospect of using neuroimaging in cognitive model evaluation.

Keywords: Cognitive models; Greek; Lexical decision; Reading; Visual word recognition; fMRI.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pattern Recognition, Visual / physiology*
  • Reading*
  • Recognition, Psychology / physiology
  • Young Adult