The aim of this study was to find the most prominent source of intersubject variability in neuronal activation for reading familiar words aloud. To this end, we collected functional imaging data from a large sample of subjects (n = 76) with different demographic characteristics such as handedness, sex, and age, while reading. The subject-by-subject error variance was estimated from a one-sample t test (on all 76 subjects) and was reduced to a lower dimension using principal components decomposition. A Gaussian Mixture Model was then applied to dissociate different subgroups of subjects that explained the main sources of variability in the data. This resulted in the identification of four different subject groups. The comparison of these subgroups to the subjects' demographic details showed that age had a significant effect on the subject partitioning. In addition, a region-by-group dissociation in the dorsal and the ventral inferior frontal cortex was consistent with previously reported dissociations in semantic and nonsemantic reading strategies. In contrast to these significant findings, the groupings did not differentiate subjects on the basis of either sex or handedness, nor did they segregate the subjects with right- versus left-lateralized reading activation. We therefore conclude that, of the variables tested, age and reading strategy were the most prominent source of variability in activation for reading familiar words aloud.

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