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Background: It is known that the orthographic properties of linguistic stimuli are processed within the left occipitotemporal cortex at about 150-200 ms. We recorded event-related potentials (ERPs) to words in standard or mirror orientation to investigate the role of visual word form in reading. Word inversion was performed to determine whether rotated words lose their linguistic properties. Methods: About 1300 Italian words and legal pseudo-words were presented to 18 right-handed Italian students engaged in a letter detection task. EEG was recorded from 128 scalp sites. Results: ERPs showed an early effect of word orientation at ∼150 ms, with larger N1 amplitudes to rotated than to standard words. Low-resolution brain electromagnetic tomography (LORETA) revealed an increase in N1 to rotated words primarily in the right occipital lobe (BA 18), which may indicate an effect of stimulus familiarity. N1 was greater to target than to non-target letters at left lateral occipital sites, thus reflecting the first stage of orthographic processing. LORETA revealed a strong focus of activation for this effect in the left fusiform gyrus (BA 37), which is consistent with the so-called visual word form area (VWFA). Standard words (compared to pseudowords) elicited an enhancement of left occipito/temporal negativity at about 250-350 ms, followed by a larger anterior P3, a reduced frontal N400 and a huge late positivity. Lexical effects for rotated strings were delayed by about 100 ms at occipito/temporal sites, and were totally absent at later processing stages. This suggests the presence of implicit reading processes, which were pre-attentive and of perceptual nature for mirror strings. Conclusion: The contrast between inverted and standard words did not lead to the identification of a purely linguistic brain region. This finding suggests some caveats in the interpretation of the inversion effect in subtractive paradigms. © 2007 Proverbio et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.
Proverbio, A. M., Wiedemann, F., Adorni, R., Rossi, V., Del Zotto, M., & Zani, A. (2007). Dissociating object familiarity from linguistic properties in mirror word reading. Behavioral and Brain Functions, 3. https://doi.org/10.1186/1744-9081-3-43