Left-lateralized N170 response to unpronounceable pseudo but not false Chinese characters – the key role of orthography

Publication year: 2011
Source: Neuroscience, In Press, Accepted Manuscript, Available online 13 June 2011

Sien, Lin , Hsuan Chih, Chen , Jing, Zhao , Su, Li , Sheng, He , …

A negative event-related potential (ERP) component, known as N170, can be readily recorded over the posterior left brain region when skilled readers are presented with visual words. This left-lateralized word-related N170 has been attributed either to linguistic processes, particularly phonological processing, or to the role of orthographic regularity, emphasizing a perceptual origin. This debate, however, is difficult to resolve in the context of alphabetic scripts because of the tight relations between orthography and phonology. In contrast, Chinese characters have arbitrary mappings between orthographic and sound forms, making it possible to tease apart these two properties of visual words. We therefore…

▶We examine the lateralization of N170 for visually presented Chinese stimuli. ▶Orthographic and phonological properties of the stimuli are manipulated. ▶A left-lateralized N170 is found and is independent of phonology. ▶The N170 amplitude and lateralization are modulated by an orthographic manipulation. ▶Orthography is critical for the left-lateralization of N170 to visual words.