Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience
Recent evidence has suggested that the human occipito-temporal region comprises several subregions, each sensitive to a distinct processing level of visual words. To further explore the functional architecture of visual word recognition, we employed a subliminal priming method with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) during semantic judgments of words presented in two different Japanese scripts, Kanji and Kana. Each target word was preceded by a subliminal presentation of either the same or a different word, and in the same or a different script. Behaviorally, word repetition produced significant priming regardless of whether the words were presented in the same or different script. At the neural level, this cross-script priming was associated with repetition suppression in the left inferior temporal cortex anterior and dorsal to the visual word form area hypothesized for alphabetical writing systems, suggesting that cross-script convergence occurred at a semantic level. fMRI also evidenced a shared visual occipito-temporal activation for words in the two scripts, with slightly more mesial and right-predominant activation for Kanji and with greater occipital activation for Kana. These results thus allow us to separate script-specific and script-independent regions in the posterior temporal lobe, while demonstrating that both can be activated subliminally.