Structural properties of the ventral reading pathways are associated with morphological processing in adult English readers

Cortex. 2019 Jul;116:268-285. doi: 10.1016/j.cortex.2018.06.011. Epub 2018 Jul 3.


Morphological processing, the ability to extract information about word structure, is an essential component of reading. Functional MRI studies have identified several cortical regions involved in morphological processing, but the white matter pathways that support this skill remain unknown. Here, we examine the relationship between behavioral measures of morphological processing and microstructural properties of white matter pathways. Using diffusion MRI (dMRI), we identified the major ventral and dorsal reading pathways in a group of 45 adult English readers. The same participants completed a behavioral battery that included a morphological task and measures of phonological and orthographic processing. We found significant correlations between morphological processing skill and microstructural properties of the ventral, but not dorsal, pathways. These correlations were detected primarily in the left hemisphere, and remained significant after controlling for phonological or orthographic measures, suggesting some level of cognitive specificity. Morphological processing of written words thus appears to rely on ventral pathways, primarily in the left hemisphere. This finding supports the contribution of morphological processing to lexical access and comprehension of complex English words.

Keywords: DTI; Derivational morphology; Diffusion imaging; Morphological processing; Reading; White matter tractography.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain / anatomy & histology*
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping / methods
  • Diffusion Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods
  • Diffusion Tensor Imaging / methods
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods
  • Male
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Reading*
  • White Matter / anatomy & histology*
  • White Matter / physiology
  • Writing