Specialization of phonological and semantic processing in Chinese word reading
The purpose of this study was to examine the neurocognitive network for processing visual word forms in native Chinese speakers using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). In order to compare the processing of phonological and semantic representations, we developed parallel rhyming and meaning association judgment tasks that required explicit access and manipulation of these representations. Subjects showed activation in left inferior/middle frontal gyri, bilateral medial frontal gyri, bilateral middle occipital/fusiform gyri, and bilateral cerebella for both the rhyming and meaning tasks. A direct comparison of the tasks revealed that the rhyming task showed more activation in the posterior dorsal region of the inferior/middle frontal gyrus (BA 9/44) and in the inferior parietal lobule (BA 40). The meaning task showed more activation in the anterior ventral region of the inferior/middle frontal gyrus (BA 47) and in the superior/middle temporal gyrus (BA 22,21). These findings are consistent with previous studies in English that suggest specialization of inferior frontal regions for the access and manipulation of phonological vs. semantic representations, but also suggest that this specialization extends to the middle frontal gyrus for Chinese. These findings are also consistent with the suggestion that the left middle temporal gyrus is involved in representing semantic information and the left inferior parietal lobule is involved in mapping between orthographic and phonological representations.