'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: New study of freelance workers examines link between their well-being and hours worked

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Do government technology investments pay off?

4 hours ago

Studies confirm that IT investments in companies improve productivity and efficiency. University of Michigan professor M.S. Krishnan wondered if the same was true for government.

Study finds assisted housing works, but it could be improved

5 hours ago

Two researchers from the University of Kansas Department of Urban Planning have just completed a study on the locations of assisted housing units and assisted households across the nation. It examines one of the key issues ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.