Structural hemispheric asymmetries underlie verbal Stroop performance

Antonino Vallesi, Ilaria Mazzonetto, Ettore Ambrosini, Laura Babcock, Mariagrazia Capizzi, Sandra Arbula, Vincenza Tarantino, Carlo Semenza, Alessandra Bertoldo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Performance on tasks involving cognitive control such as the Stroop task is often associated with left lateralized brain activations. Based on this neuro-functional evidence, we tested whether leftward structural grey matter asymmetries would also predict inter-individual differences in combatting Stroop interference. To check for the specificity of the results, both a verbal Stroop task and a spatial one were administered to a total of 111 healthy young individuals, for whom T1-weighted magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) images were also acquired. Surface thickness and area estimations were calculated using FreeSurfer. Participants’ hemispheres were registered to a symmetric template and Laterality Indices (LI) for the surface thickness and for the area at each vertex in each participant were computed. The correlation of these surface LI measures with the verbal and spatial Stroop effects (incongruent–congruent difference in trial performance) was assessed at each vertex by means of general linear models at the whole-brain level. We found a significant correlation between performance and surface area LI in an inferior posterior temporal cluster (overlapping with the so-called visual word form area, VWFA), with a more left-lateralized area in this region associated with a smaller Stroop effect only in the verbal task. These results point to an involvement of the VWFA for higher-level processes based on word reading, including the suppression of this process when required by the task, and could be interpreted in the context of cross-hemispheric rivalry.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)167-173
Number of pages7
JournalBehavioural Brain Research
Publication statusPublished - Sep 29 2017


  • FreeSurfer
  • Hemispheric asymmetry
  • Spatial Stroop
  • Surface area
  • Verbal Stroop
  • Visual word form area

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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