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Poster B61, Wednesday, November 8, 3:00 – 4:15 pm, Harborview and Loch Raven Ballrooms

Do Different Types of Script Induce Differences in Hemispheric Lateralization During Reading? Evidence from a Cross Linguistic MEG Study.

Kefei Wu1, Diogo Almeida1;1New York University Abu Dhabi

Despite many different scripts being actively in use today, they can be roughly divided into two different categories depending on the type of information about words they privilege: sound, as in alphabetic (e.g.: English) and abjad (e.g.: Arabic) scripts, or meaning, as in logographic scripts (e.g.: Chinese). These different types of scripts are sometimes reported to induce different patterns of hemispheric brain activity early in the visual pathway. A large body of evidence in this debate pertains to findings of hemispheric asymmetries in the N/M170 response during reading of alphabetic versus logographic scripts. Left lateralization effects in the N/M170 are commonly observed during reading of alphabetic scripts, and have been attributed either to the process of mapping the visual form of words to their pronunciation (a script-to-sound mapping hypothesis), or to a more general expertise acquired in the visual domain (a visual familiarity hypothesis). The findings regarding the reading of logographic scripts are more equivocal, with some studies reporting a bilateral N/M170 response (as predicted by the script-to-sound mapping hypothesis, since the process of mapping script units to sound units is not engaged by the nature of logographic scripts) whereas others observe a left-lateralized N/M170 response (as predicted by the visual familiarity hypothesis). In order to test these two different putative mechanisms, we conducted an MEG study using a cross-linguistic design comparing the reading of Chinese, a logographic script, with English. In order to isolate script differences from the language difference, we also tested the reading of Pinyin, an auxiliary alphabetic system for transliterating Chinese words into the Latin script. In addition, in order to test the plasticity implied by the visual familiarity hypothesis, we also recruited a group of native speakers of English who had been learning to speak and read Chinese for at least one year. The experiment employed a 3 (group: English, Chinese, and Chinese-learner) x 3 (stimulus type: English words, Chinese words and Chinese words written in pinyin) factorial design, and used an occasional one-back repetition detection task in which participants were asked to passively view the stimuli on the screen unless prompted for a one-back repetition detection stimulus. Left-lateralized responses were obtained in all conditions involving alphabetic stimuli (English words and Chinese words written in Pinyin) across all three groups of participants. Bilateral responses were obtained in the Chinese word condition for the English-speaking and Chinese-learner groups, but not for the Chinese group, which showed a left-lateralized response to Chinese words. These results are more in line with the visual familiarity hypothesis.

Topic Area: Perception: Orthographic and Other Visual Processes

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