Purpose: For the past 2 decades, neuroimaging studies in dyslexia have pointed toward a hypoactivation of the ventral occipitotemporal cortex (VOTC), a region that has been closely associated to reading through the extraction of a representation of words which is invariant to position, size, font or case. However, most of the studies are confined to the visual word form area (VWFA), while recent studies have demonstrated a posterior-to-anterior gradient of print specificity along the VOTC. In our study, the whole VOTC, partitioned into three main patches of cortex, is assessed in dyslexic and control adults.
Methods: A total of 30 participants were included in this study (14 developmental dyslexics and 16 age- and education-matched controls). The design consisted of alternately viewed blocks of stimuli from a given class (words, consonant strings, phase-scrambled words, phase-scrambled consonant strings, small checkerboards, large checkerboards). The analyzed contrast was print stimuli (words and consonants) versus scrambled stimuli and checkerboards.
Results: Corroborating previous findings, our results showed underactivation to print stimuli in the VWFA of dyslexics. Additionally, differences between dyslexics and controls were also found, particularly in an area of the anterior partition of the VOTC, suggesting a relevant role of this area in word processing.
Conclusions: In sum, our study goes beyond the underactivation hypothesis in the VWFA of dyslexics and indicates that a particular area on the anterior fusiform region might be particularly involved in the reading deficits in dyslexia, demonstrating the involvement of multiple areas within VOTC in reading processes.