According to cognitive models of reading, words are processed by interacting orthographic (spelling), phonological (sound) and semantic (meaning) information. Despite extensive study of the neural basis of reading in healthy participants, little group data exist on patients with reading deficits from focal brain damage pointing to critical neural systems for reading. Here we report on one such study. We have performed neuropsychological testing and MRI on 11 patients with left-hemisphere stroke (<= 5 weeks post stroke). Patients completed tasks assessing cognitive components of reading such as semantics (matching picture or word choices to a target based on meaning), phonology (matching word choices to a target based on rhyming), and orthography (a two-alternative forced choice of the most plausible nonword). They also read aloud pseudowords and words with high or low levels of usage frequency, imageability, and spelling-sound consistency. As predicted by the cognitive model, when averaged across patients, the influence of semantics was most salient for low-frequency, low-consistency words, when phonological decoding is especially difficult. Qualitative subtraction analyses revealed lesion sites specific to phonological processing. These areas were consistent with those shown previously to activate for phonology in healthy participants, including supramarginal, posterior superior temporal, middle temporal, inferior frontal gyri, and underlying white matter. Notable divergence between this analysis and previous functional imaging is the association of lesions in the mid-fusiform gyrus and anterior temporal lobe with phonological reading deficits. This study represents progress toward identifying brain lesion-deficit relationships in the cognitive components of reading. Such correspondences are expected to help not only better understand the neural mechanisms of reading, but may also help tailor reading therapy to individual neurocognitive deficit profiles
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