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Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience

April 2008, Vol. 20, No. 4, Pages 672-681
(doi: 10.1162/jocn.2008.20043)
© 2008 Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Cerebral Lateralization of Frontal Lobe Language Processes and Lateralization of the Posterior Visual Word Processing System
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The brain areas involved in visual word processing rapidly become lateralized to the left cerebral hemisphere. It is often assumed this is because, in the vast majority of people, cortical structures underlying language production are lateralized to the left hemisphere. An alternative hypothesis, however, might be that the early stages of visual word processing are lateralized to the left hemisphere because of intrinsic hemispheric differences in processing low-level visual information as required for distinguishing fine-grained visual forms such as letters. If the alternative hypothesis was correct, we would expect posterior occipito-temporal processing stages still to be lateralized to the left hemisphere for participants with right hemisphere dominance for the frontal lobe processes involved in language production. By analyzing event-related potentials of native readers of French with either left hemisphere or right hemisphere dominance for language production (determined using a verb generation task), we were able to show that the posterior occipito-temporal areas involved in visual word processing are lateralized to the same hemisphere as language production. This finding could suggest top-down influences in the development of posterior visual word processing areas.