'Word-vision' brain area confirmed

Apr 19, 2006
Brain

French neuroscientists have ended a long controversy, confirming a specific area of the human brain plays a causal role in our ability to recognize words.

Humans have an uncanny ability to skim through text, instantly recognizing words by their shape -- even though writing developed only about 6000 years ago, long after humans evolved. Thus, scientists have hotly debated whether an area of the cortex called the Visual Word Form Area, or VWFA, is a specific and necessary area for recognizing words.

Functional MRI scans have shown the area activates when people read, as opposed to recognizing other objects, such as faces or houses. And people with lesions in that region lose the ability to recognize whole words, reduced to letter-by-letter reading. But fMRI studies have not demonstrated a causal role for the VWFA, and lesions involving the VWFA invariably involved other regions as well.

Now, a patient whose surgery to relieve epilepsy specifically disrupted the VWFA has given researchers -- led by Laurent Cohen of the Hospital of Salpetriere in Paris -- an opportunity to demonstrate the region does indeed play a causal role in our ability to recognize words.

The research appears in the journal Neuron.

Copyright 2006 by United Press International

Explore further: Dinosaur footprints set for public display in Utah

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Ahead of Emmys, Netflix already winning online

3 hours ago

Even if it doesn't take home any of the major trophies at Monday's Emmy Awards, Netflix will have already proven itself the top winner in one regard: Internet programming.

US warns shops to watch for customer data hacking

3 hours ago

The US Department of Homeland Security on Friday warned businesses to watch for hackers targeting customer data with malicious computer code like that used against retail giant Target.

SpaceX rocket explodes during test flight

4 hours ago

A SpaceX rocket exploded in midair during a test flight, though no one was injured, as the company seeks to develop a spacecraft that can return to Earth and be used again.

Official says hackers hit up to 25,000 US workers

4 hours ago

The internal records of as many as 25,000 Homeland Security Department employees were exposed during a recent computer break-in at a federal contractor that handles security clearances, an agency official said Friday.

Recommended for you

Fossil arthropod went on the hunt for its prey

Aug 22, 2014

A new species of carnivorous crustacean has been identified, which roamed the seas 435 million years ago, grasping its prey with spiny limbs before devouring it. The fossil is described and details of its lifestyle are published ...

User comments : 0