Reading the reading brain: A new meta-analysis of functional imaging data on reading

Isabella Cattinelli, N. Alberto Borghese, Marcello Gallucci, Eraldo Paulesu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Over the last 20 years, reading has been the focus of much research using functional imaging. A formal assessment of the implications of this work for a more general understanding of reading processes is still lacking. We performed a new meta-analysis based on an optimized hierarchical clustering algorithm which automatically groups activation peaks into clusters; the functional role of the clusters was assessed on the basis of statistical criteria. We considered the literature from 1992 to 2008, focussing exclusively on experiments based on single words or pseudowords from the following four classes of tasks: reading, lexical decision, phonological decision and semantic tasks. Our analysis was restricted to alphabetic orthographies and was based on 35 studies. We identified three networks: (1) a difficulty modulated network including Broca's area and attention-related brain regions; (2) a word-related network, primarily involving regions of the left temporal lobe and of the anterior fusiform region, known to participate to semantic processes; (3) a pseudoword-related network in the basal occipito-temporal regions and in the left inferior parietal cortex. These subnetworks constitute the basis upon which a plausible functional model of reading is proposed, where orthographic, phonological, and semantic processes are recruited to compute the phonology of a written stimulus based on cooperative and competitive mechanisms. The results of this meta-analysis held face validity when compared with the results of literature published until mid 2010, the time of completion of data collection.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)214-238
Number of pages25
JournalJournal of Neurolinguistics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2013


  • Clustering
  • FMRI
  • Meta-analysis
  • PET
  • Pseudowords
  • Reading neural circuits
  • Words

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Linguistics and Language
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


Dive into the research topics of 'Reading the reading brain: A new meta-analysis of functional imaging data on reading'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this