Biology

Development of neural specialization for print: Evidence for predictive coding in visual word recognition

by Jing Zhao, Urs Maurer, Sheng He, Xuchu Weng

How a child’s brain develops specialization for print is poorly understood. One longstanding account is selective neuronal tuning to regularity of visual-orthographic features, which predicts a monotonically increased neural activation for inputs with higher regularity during development. However, we observed a robust interaction between a stimulus’ orthographic regularity (bottom-up input) and children’s lexical classification ability (top-down prediction): N1 response, which is the first negative component of the event-related potential (ERP) occurring at posterior electrodes, was stronger to lower-regularity stimuli, but only in children who were less efficient in lexically classifying these stimuli (high prediction error). In contrast, N1 responses were reduced to lower-regularity stimuli in children who showed high efficiency of lexical classification (low prediction error). The modulation of children’s lexical classification efficiency on their neural responses to orthographic stimuli supports the predictive coding account of neural processes of reading.

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