Neural correlates of orthographic and phonological consistency effects in children
The objective of this study was to examine the neural correlates of phonological inconsistency (relationship of spelling to sound) and orthographic inconsistency (relationship of sound to spelling) in visual word processing using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Children (9- to 15-year-old) performed a rhyming and spelling task in which two words were presented sequentially in the visual modality. Consistent with previous studies in adults, higher phonological inconsistency was associated with greater activation in several regions including left inferior frontal gyrus and medial frontal gyrus/anterior cingulate cortex. We additionally demonstrated an effect of orthographic inconsistency in these same areas, suggesting that these regions are involved in the integration of orthographic and phonological information and, with respect to the medial frontal/anterior cingulate, greater demands on executive function. Higher phonological and orthographic consistency was associated with greater activation in precuneus/posterior cingulate cortex, the putative steady state system active during resting, suggesting lower demands on cognitive resources for consistent items. Both consistency effects were larger for the rhyming compared with the spelling task suggesting greater demands of integrating spelling and sound in the former task. Finally, accuracy on the rhyming task was negatively correlated with the consistency effect in left fusiform gyrus. In particular, this region showed insensitivity to consistency in low performers, sensitivity to inconsistency (higher activity) in moderate performers, and sensitivity to inconsistency (high activation) and to consistency (deactivation). In general, these results show that the influence of spelling-sound (and sound-spelling) correspondences on processing in fusiform gyrus develops as a function of skill.