Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience
The split-fovea theory proposes that visual word recognition is mediated by the splitting of the foveal image, with letters to the left of fixation projected to the right hemisphere (RH) and letters to the right of fixation projected to the left hemisphere (LH). We applied repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) over the left and right occipital cortex during a lexical decision task to investigate the extent to which word recognition processes could be accounted for according to the split-fovea theory. Unilateral rTMS significantly impaired lexical decision latencies to centrally presented words, supporting the suggestion that foveal representation of words is split between the cerebral hemispheres rather than bilateral. Behaviorally, we showed that words that have many orthographic neighbors sharing the same initial letters (“lead neighbors”) facilitated lexical decision more than words with few lead neighbors. This effect did not apply to end neighbors (orthographic neighbors sharing the same final letters). Crucially, rTMS over the RH impaired lead-, but not end-neighborhood facilitation. The results support the split-fovea theory, where the RH has primacy in representing lead neighbors of a written word.