The importance of literacy pervades modern society. Unfortunately, acquiring written language skills can be a challenge for those with developmental learning disorders or for deaf individuals who, without complete access to phonology, rely primarily on orthographic knowledge when developing literacy skills. Importantly, skilled written communication requires word spelling. To date our understanding of the neurobiological basis of spelling is very limited and especially poor when compared to the rich literature available on the neural signature of reading. Although behavioral data alludes to the fact that there are common cognitive processes shared by reading and spelling, it is unknown if these processes rely on the same neuronal resources. The proposed experiments will investigate this by concurrently examining the brain basis of reading and spelling. Recently, a novel functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) technique has been developed to probe neural activity associated with unique or common populations of neurons within a brain area for a given stimulus or task. We will use this technique, called fMRI-adaptation, to test hypotheses regarding the functional coupling of reading and spelling in the brain.
Aim 1 will be to identify brain areas which are used for both reading and spelling. An fMRI-adaptation paradigm combining reading and spelling will be used to independently determine if regions which contain neuronal populations selective to reading also contain neuronal populations that are selective to spelling.
Aim 2 will be to determine if the same neuronal substrates used to read are also used to spell. The same fMRI-adaptation paradigm used in Aim 1 will be used to determine if there are brain regions which contain populations of neurons that are used to both read and spell the same exact word.
These aims provide two complementary ways to examine the interaction of reading and spelling in the brain. This work will help facilitate a more complete understanding of how written language skills both develop and are impaired. Literacy is one of the most important skills taught in schools today. The goal of this proposal is to use fMRI to determine if the neural representations used to read a word are also used to spell that word. Understanding how these different aspects of written language interact at the neural level is relevant to future research into why one or both forms of written communication are impaired in at-risk populations and how interventions or instructional approaches can be refined to accommodate this understanding. This is of particular importance for those with developmental learning disorders such as dyslexia or dysgraphia or people who rely heavily on word spelling knowledge, such as deaf or hard of hearing.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD)
Predoctoral Individual National Research Service Award (F31)
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Communication Disorders Review Committee (CDRC)
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Cyr, Janet
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Georgetown University
Schools of Medicine
United States
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Purcell, Jeremy J; Jiang, Xiong; Eden, Guinevere F (2017) Shared orthographic neuronal representations for spelling and reading. Neuroimage 147:554-567
Purcell, Jeremy J; Napoliello, Eileen M; Eden, Guinevere F (2011) A combined fMRI study of typed spelling and reading. Neuroimage 55:750-62
Purcell, Jeremy J; Turkeltaub, Peter E; Eden, Guinevere F et al. (2011) Examining the central and peripheral processes of written word production through meta-analysis. Front Psychol 2:239