Segregation of lexical and sub-lexical reading processes in the left perisylvian cortex.
A fundamental issue in cognitive neuroscience is the existence of two major, sub-lexical and lexical, reading processes and their possible segregation in the left posterior perisylvian cortex. Using cortical electrostimulation mapping, we identified the cortical areas involved on reading either orthographically irregular words (lexical, "direct" process) or pronounceable pseudowords (sublexical, "indirect" process) in 14 right-handed neurosurgical patients while video-recording behavioral effects. Intraoperative neuronavigation system and Montreal Neurological Institute (MNI) stereotactic coordinates were used to identify the localization of stimulation sites. Fifty-one reading interference areas were found that affected either words (14 areas), or pseudo-words (11 areas), or both (26 areas). Forty-one (80%) corresponded to the impairment of the phonological level of reading processes. Reading processes involved discrete, highly localized perisylvian cortical areas with individual variability. MNI coordinates throughout the group exhibited a clear segregation according to the tested reading route; specific pseudo-word reading interferences were concentrated in a restricted inferior and anterior subpart of the left supramarginal gyrus (barycentre x = -68.1; y = -25.9; z = 30.2; Brodmann's area 40) while specific word reading areas were located almost exclusively alongside the left superior temporal gyrus. Although half of the reading interferences found were nonspecific, the finding of specific lexical or sublexical interferences is new evidence that lexical and sublexical processes of reading could be partially supported by distinct cortical sub-regions despite their anatomical proximity. These data are in line with many brain activation studies that showed that left superior temporal and inferior parietal regions had a crucial role respectively in word and pseudoword reading and were core regions for dyslexia.