Brain Topography

, Volume 18, Issue 4, pp 233–239 | Cite as

FMRI of Ventral and Dorsal Processing Streams in Basic Reading Processes: Insular Sensitivity to Phonology

  • Ron BorowskyEmail author
  • Jacqueline Cummine
  • William J. Owen
  • Chris Kelland Friesen
  • Francis Shih
  • Gordon E. Sarty


Most current models of the neurophysiology of basic reading processes agree on a system involving two cortical streams: a ventral stream (occipital-temporal) used when accessing familiar words encoded in lexical memory, and a dorsal stream (occipital-parietal-frontal) used when phonetically decoding words (i.e., mapping sublexical spelling onto sounds). The models diverge, however, on the issue of whether the insular cortex is involved. The present fMRI study required participants to read aloud exception words (e.g., ‘one’, which must be read via lexical memory) and pseudohomophones (e.g., ‘wun’, which must be read via sublexical spelling to sound translation) to examine the processing streams as well as the insular cortex, and their relationship to lexical and sublexical reading processes. The present study supports the notion of independent ventral-lexical and dorsal-sublexical streams, and further suggests the insular cortex to be sensitive to phonological processing (particularly sublexical spelling-sound translation). These latter findings illuminate the nature of insular activity during reading, which must be explored further in future studies, and accounted for in models of the neurophysiology of reading.


fMRI Localization Visual pathways Ventral stream Dorsal stream Lexical Sublexical Exception words Pseudohomophones 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Backes, W., Vuurman, E., Wennekes, R., Spronk, P., Wuisman, M., Engelshoven, J.V., et al. Atypical brain activation of reading processes in children with developmental dyslexia. J. Child. Neurol., 2002, 17: 867–871.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Binder, J. and Price, C.J. Functional neuroimaging of language. In: R. Cabeza and A. Kingstone (Eds.), Handbook of Functional Neuroimaging of Cognition, 2001: 187–251. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  3. Borowsky, R., Owen, W.J. and Sarty, G.E. The role of the left hemisphere in motor control of touch: A functional magnetic resonance imaging analysis. Brain Cogn., 2002, 49: 96–101.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Borowsky, R., Loehr, J., Friesen, C.K., Kraushaar, G., Kingstone, A. and Sarty, G. Modularity and intersection of ‘what’, ‘where’, and ‘how’ processing of visual stimuli: A new method of fMRI localization. Brain Topogr., 2005, 18: 67–75.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Borowsky, R., Owen, W.J., Wile, T.A., Friesen, C.K., Martin, J.L. and Sarty, G.E. Neuroimaging of language processes: FMRI of silent and overt lexical processing and the promise of multiple process imaging in single brain studies. Can. Assoc. Radiol. J., 2005, 56: 204–213.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. Cox, R.W. AFNI: Software for analysis and visualization of functional magnetic resonance neuroimages. Comput. Biomed. Res., 1996, 29: 162–173. [AFNI 3-d anatomical brain available at: astrip±orig.HEAD (and BRIK)].
  7. Demb, J., Poldrack, R.A. and Gabrieli, J.D.E. Functional neuroimaging of word processing in normal and dyslexic readers. In: R.M. Klein and P.A. McMullen (Eds.), Converging Methods for Understanding Reading and Dyslexia, 1999: 245–304. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  8. Donders, F.C. On the speed of mental processes. Acta Psychol., 1868:1969, 30: 412–431.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Friston, K.J., Holmes, A.P., Price, C.J., Buchel, C. and Worsley, K.J. Multisubject fMRI studies and conjunction analyses. Neuroimage, 1999, 10: 385–396.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Goldstein, E.B. Sensation and Perception (6th ed.), 2002. Pacific Grove, CA: Wadsworth-Thomson.Google Scholar
  11. Hubel, D.H., Wiesel, T.N. and Stryker, M.P. Anatomical demonstration of orientation columns in macaque monkey. J. Comp. Neurol., 1978, 177: 361–379.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Owen, W.J., Borowsky, R. and Sarty, G.E. FMRI of two measures of phonological processing in visual word recognition: Ecological validity matters. Brain Lang., 2004, 90: 40–46.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Paap, K.R. and Noel, R.W. Dual-route models from print to sound: Still a good horse race. Psychol. Res., 1991, 53: 13–24.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Price, C.J. and Friston, K.J. Cognitive conjunction: A new approach to brain activation experiments. Neuroimage, 1997, 5: 261–270.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Polk, T.A. and Farah, M.J. Functional MRI evidence for an abstract, not perceptual, word-form area. J. Exp. Psychol.: Gen., 2002, 131: 65–72.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Posner, M.I. and Raichle, M.E. Images of mind, 1994, New York: Scientific American Library.Google Scholar
  17. Pugh, K.R., Mencl, W.E., Jenner, A.R., Katz, L., Frost, S.J., Lee, J.R., Shaywitz, S.A. and Shaywitz, B.A. Functional neuroimaging studies of reading and reading disability (developmental dyslexia). Ment. Retard. Dev. D R, 2000, 6: 207–213.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Pugh, K.R., Shaywitz, B.A., Constable, R.T., Shaywitz, S.A., Skudlarski, P., Fulbright, R.K., Brone, R.A., Shankweiler, D.P., Katz, L., Fletcher, J.M. and Gore, J.C. Cerebral organization of component processes in reading. Brain, 1996, 119: 1221–1238.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Sandak, R., Mencl, W.E., Frost, S.J. and Pugh, K.R. The neurobiological basis of skilled and impaired reading: Recent findings and new directions. Sci. Stud. Read., 2004, 8: 273–292.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Sarty, G. and Borowsky, R. Functional MRI Activation Maps from Empirically Defined Curve Fitting. Magnet. Reson. Eng., 2005, 24b: 46–55.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Talairach, J. and Tournoux, P. Co-planar stereotaxic atlas of the human brain, 1988. New York: Thieme Medical Publishers, Inc.Google Scholar
  22. Young, M.P. Open questions about the neural mechanisms of visual pattern recognition. In: M.S. Gazzaniga (Ed.), The Cognitive Neurosciences, 1995: 463–474. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ron Borowsky
    • 1
    • 4
    Email author
  • Jacqueline Cummine
    • 1
  • William J. Owen
    • 2
  • Chris Kelland Friesen
    • 3
  • Francis Shih
    • 1
  • Gordon E. Sarty
    • 1
  1. 1.Cognitive Neuroimaging Lab, Department of Psychology, College of Arts and Science, and Department of Medical Imaging, College of MedicineUniversity of SaskatchewanSaskatoonCanada
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyUniversity of Northern British ColumbiaPrince GeorgeCanada
  3. 3.Department of PsychologyNorth Dakota State UniversityFargoUSA
  4. 4.Cognitive Neuroimaging Lab, Department of PsychologyUniversity of SaskatchewanSaskatoonCanada

Personalised recommendations