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Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience

September 2013, Vol. 25, No. 9, Pages 1442-1452
(doi: 10.1162/jocn_a_00412)
© 2013 Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Interhemispheric Communication Influences Reading Behavior
Article PDF (524.1 KB)

We can read words at an amazing speed, with the left hemisphere taking the burden of the processing in most readers (i.e., over 95% of right-handers and about 75% of left-handers). Yet, it is a long-standing question whether word reading in central vision is possible without information transfer between the left and right hemispheres (LH/RH). Here we show that such communication is required by comparing word naming latencies and eye movement data of people with LH language dominance and a unique sample of healthy RH dominant people. The results reveal that individuals with LH speech dominance name words faster when they are allowed to fixate at the word beginning, whereas RH dominants are faster for fixations toward the end. In text reading, the eyes of LH dominants land more to the left than the eyes of RH dominants, making more information directly available to the dominant hemisphere. We conclude that the traditional view of bilateral projections in central vision is incorrect. In contrast, interhemispheric communication is needed in central vision, and eye movements are adjusted to optimize information uptake. Our findings therefore call into question the explanation of macular sparing in hemianopia based on a bilaterally projecting fovea. In addition, these results are in line with the increase of white matter in the splenium of the corpus callosum when people learn to read.