Studies of skilled reading [Price, C. J., & Mechelli, A. Reading and reading disturbance. Current Opinion in Neurobiology, 15, 231–238, 2005], its acquisition in children [Shaywitz, B. A., Shaywitz, S. E., Pugh, K. R., Mencl, W. E., Fulbright, R. K., Skudlarski, P., et al. Disruption of posterior brain systems for reading in children with developmental dyslexia. Biological Psychiatry, 52, 101–110, 2002; Turkeltaub, P. E., Gareau, L., Flowers, D. L., Zeffiro, T. A., & Eden, G. F. Development of neural mechanisms for reading. Nature Neuroscience, 6, 767–773, 2003], and its impairment in patients with pure alexia [Leff, A. P., Crewes, H., Plant, G. T., Scott, S. K., Kennard, C., & Wise, R. J. The functional anatomy of single word reading in patients with hemianopic and pure alexia. Brain, 124, 510–521, 2001] all highlight the importance of the left posterior fusiform cortex in visual word recognition. We used visual masked priming and functional magnetic resonance imaging to elucidate the specific functional contribution of this region to reading and found that (1) unlike words, repetition of pseudowords (“solst-solst”) did not produce a neural priming effect in this region, (2) orthographically related words such as “corner-corn” did produce a neural priming effect, but (3) this orthographic priming effect was reduced when prime-target pairs were semantically related (“teacher-teach”). These findings conflict with the notion of stored visual word forms and instead suggest that this region acts as an interface between visual form information and higher order stimulus properties such as its associated sound and meaning. More importantly, this function is not specific to reading but is also engaged when processing any meaningful visual stimulus.

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