Poster C31, Friday, August 17, 10:30 am – 12:15 pm, Room 2000AB

The neural correlates of semantic radicals in processing Chinese characters

Xiangyang Zhang1, Fakun Chen1, Rui Zhang1, Jianfeng Yang1;1Shaanxi Normal University

The semantic processing engaged in visual word reading has received evidence from studies of behavior, neuropsychology, computer modeling, and cognitive neuroscience. The logographic property of the Chinese writing system provides an opportunity to directly examine the role of the semantic processing in visual word reading. However, the neural circuit of the semantic processing in Chinese character reading is far from clear. The current fMRI study aims to investigate the neural correlates of the processing of semantic radicals and its interaction with the whole characters’ meaning. Participants performed a lexical decision task on characters or character-like stimuli comprised of two components: a phonetic and a semantic radical. All the phonetic and semantic radicals in the stimuli cannot be used as characters independently. The meaning of the semantic radicals was manipulated: a strong meaningful radical can indicate the semantic category for most of the characters in the same semantic family, whereas a weak meaningful radical cannot. Each type of semantic radicals was combined with a phonetic radical to create two types of stimuli: real and pseudo-characters. The BOLD signal showed a common brain network for processing real than pseudo characters in the left hemisphere including Middle Temporal Gyrus (MTG), Inferior Frontal Gyrus (IFG), and Anterior Temporal Lobule (ATL). The most interesting finding was that the strong meaningful semantic radicals involved more activities at left MTG than weak meaningful ones for pseudo-characters. Whereas for real characters, both the MTG and IFG were engaged more for strong than for weak meaningful semantic radicals. The finding indicated that the processing of the semantic radical relies on the engagement of the left MTG and its integration with the meaning of the whole character depends on the activity of the IFG. This study is the first examination of the neural correlates of the processing of semantic radicals. It shed a light on the further fMRI studies of the neural anatomical model of the Chinese character reading to reveal the cooperative division of labor between phonological and semantic processing neural circuits.

Topic Area: Meaning: Lexical Semantics