Framing effects reveal discrete lexical-semantic and sublexical procedures in reading: An fMRI study

Laura Danelli, Marco Marelli, Manuela Berlingeri, Marco Tettamanti, Maurizio Sberna, Eraldo Paulesu, Claudio Luzzatti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


According to the dual-route model, a printed string of letters can be processed by either a grapheme-to-phoneme conversion (GPC) route or a lexical-semantic route. Although meta-analyses of the imaging literature support the existence of distinct but interacting reading procedures, individual neuroimaging studies that explored neural correlates of reading yielded inconclusive results. We used a list-manipulation paradigm to provide a fresh empirical look at this issue and to isolate specific areas that underlie the two reading procedures. In a lexical condition, we embedded disyllabic Italian words (target stimuli) in lists of either loanwords or trisyllabic Italian words with unpredictable stress position. In a GPC condition, similar target stimuli were included within lists of pseudowords. The procedure was designed to induce participants to emphasize either the lexical-semantic or the GPC reading procedure, while controlling for possible linguistic confounds and keeping the reading task requirements stable across the two conditions. Thirty-three adults participated in the behavioral study, and 20 further adult participants were included in the fMRI study. At the behavioral level, we found sizeable effects of the framing manipulations that included slower voice onset times for stimuli in the pseudoword frames. At the functional anatomical level, the occipital and temporal regions, and the intraparietal sulcus were specifically activated when subjects were reading target words in a lexical frame. The inferior parietal and anterior fusiform cortex were specifically activated in the GPC condition. These patterns of activation represented a valid classifying model of fMRI images associated with target reading in both frames in the multi-voxel pattern analyses. Further activations were shared by the two procedures in the occipital and inferior parietal areas, in the premotor cortex, in the frontal regions and the left supplementary motor area. These regions are most likely involved in either early input or late output processes.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1328
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Publication statusPublished - Sep 23 2015


  • Dual-route model
  • fMRI
  • Lexical-semantic procedure
  • List-manipulation paradigm
  • Multi-voxel pattern analysis (MVPA)
  • Reading
  • Sublexical procedure

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)


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