Neuroimaging studies have reported that the left superior temporal cortical area is activated by visually presented words. In the present study, we recorded cortical magnetic responses evoked by visual words and examined the effect of phonological repetition (e.g., hair–hare) on left superior temporal cortical activity, using pairs of homophonic Japanese words as stimuli. Unlike English, Japanese has a large number of homophone pairs with a totally different orthography. By taking advantage of this feature of the Japanese writing system, the effect of phonological repetition can be solely examined without being confounded by the effect of orthographic similarity. Magnetic responses were recorded over the bilateral temporal sites of the brain while subjects silently read words. The words were presented one by one; a quarter of them was immediately followed by a homophonic word. Clear magnetic responses in the latency range of 300–600 msec were observed in the left hemisphere, and the responses to the homophones were smaller than those to the first presented words. In the right hemisphere, clear responses were not consistently recorded in the same latency range, and no effect of phonological repetition was observed. The sources of the responses recorded over the left hemisphere were estimated to be in the left superior temporal cortical area adjacent to the auditory cortex and the source strength as well as the magnetic responses showed a reduction by phonological repetition. This result suggests that the activity in the left superior temporal cortical area is associated with access to the phonological representation of words.

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