Distinct role of spatial frequency in dissociative reading of ideograms and phonograms: An fMRI study

Shizuka Horie, Takao Yamasaki, Tsuyoshi Okamoto, Shigeyuki Kan, Katsuya Ogata, Satoru Miyauchi, Shozo Tobimatsu

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It has been proposed that distinct neural circuits are activated by reading Japanese ideograms (Kanji) and phonograms (Kana). By measuring high-density event-related potentials, we recently reported that spatial frequency (SF) information is responsible for the dissociation between Kanji and Kana reading. In particular, we found close links between Kana and low SF (LSF) information and between Kanji and high SF (HSF) information. However, it remains unclear which brain regions contribute to this dissociation. To determine this, we performed functional magnetic resonance imaging while presenting unfiltered or spatially filtered Kanji and Kana word stimuli to healthy native Japanese subjects. Fourier analysis revealed that Kanji and Kana stimuli were characterized by HSF and LSF information, respectively. When presented with either type of unfiltered stimulus (Kanji or Kana), the bilateral inferior temporal (IT, BA 37) regions were activated compared to the resting condition. Kana but not Kanji reading also activated the bilateral inferior parietal lobules (IPL, BA 40). When we compared Kanji and Kana reading directly, the left IT region was significantly activated by Kanji reading, while significant activation of the left IPL was observed during Kana reading. In response to filtered HSF stimuli, the Kanji reading minus Kana reading comparison revealed significant activation of the left IT region but not the left IPL. Conversely, significant activation of the left IPL but not the left IT region occurred in the Kana reading minus Kanji reading comparison for filtered LSF stimuli. These results suggest that Kanji and Kana engage a relatively overlapping network, within which the left IT is more involved in Kanji processing, while the left IPL contributes more to Kana processing. The preferential engagements of these brain regions could reflect the close links between Kana and LSF information, and between Kanji and HSF information. Therefore, this study provides further evidence that SF contributes to the dissociation between Kanji and Kana reading.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)979-988
Number of pages10
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Nov 1 2012


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Neurology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience

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