Neural correlates and functional connectivity of lexical tone processing in reading

Brain Lang. 2019 Sep;196:104662. doi: 10.1016/j.bandl.2019.104662. Epub 2019 Jul 25.


Lexical tone processing in speech is mediated by bilateral superior temporal and inferior prefrontal regions, but little is known concerning the neural circuitries of lexical tone phonology in reading. Using fMRI, we examined the neural systems for lexical tone in visual Chinese word recognition. We found that the extraction of lexical tone phonology in print was subserved by bilateral fronto-parietal regions. Seed-to-voxel analyses showed that functionally connected cortical regions involved right inferior frontal gyrus and SMA, right middle frontal gyrus and right inferior parietal lobule, and SMA and bilateral cingulate gyri. Our results indicate that in Chinese tone reading, a bilateral network of frontal, parietal, motor, and cingulate regions is engaged, without involvement of temporal regions crucial for tone identification in auditory domain. Although neural couplings for lexical tone processing are different in speech and reading to some degree, the motor cortex seems to be a key component independent of modality.

Keywords: Chinese reading; Language; Lexical tone; Reading; Suprasegmental phonology.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Asians
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Linguistics*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Reading*