'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: Search continues at ancient Greek burial mound (Update)

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

US northeast braces for flooding after record snow

5 hours ago

Weather forecasters and emergency officials warned Sunday that melting snow would lead to heavy flooding in parts of the US northeast, with hundreds of thousands of people told to brace for fast-rising waters.

How the hummingbird achieves its aerobatic feats

12 hours ago

(Phys.org) —The sight of a tiny hummingbird hovering in front of a flower and then darting to another with lightning speed amazes and delights. But it also leaves watchers with a persistent question: How ...

'Mind the gap' between atomically thin materials

13 hours ago

In subway stations around London, the warning to "Mind the Gap" helps commuters keep from stepping into empty space as they leave the train. When it comes to engineering single-layer atomic structures, minding ...

Recommended for you

When shareholders exacerbate their own banks' crisis

Nov 21, 2014

Banks are increasingly issuing 'CoCo' bonds to boost the levels of equity they hold. In a crisis situation, bondholders are forced to convert these bonds into a bank's equity. To date, such bonds have been ...

Trouble with your boss? Own it

Nov 21, 2014

Don't get along with your boss? Your job performance may actually improve if the two of you can come to grips with the poor relationship.

Engineers develop gift guide for parents

Nov 21, 2014

Faculty and staff in Purdue University's College of Engineering have come up with a holiday gift guide that can help engage children in engineering concepts.

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.