Can skilled readers perform a second task in parallel? A functional connectivity MRI study
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When asked to search for a target letter while reading, the patterns with which people miss the target letter reveal information about the process of reading itself. Questions remain as to whether this paradigm reflects normal reading processes however. We used a novel continuous-performance neuroimaging paradigm to address this question. In separate scanning runs, subjects either read alone, read while searching for a target letter, or searched non-words continuously. Functional connectivity analysis recovered the full extent of brain areas identified for reading in a localizer scan, with no differences between reading alone and the dual task condition. Differences were found, however, between both reading conditions and the nonword search condition. These results demonstrate that in skilled readers brain activation associated with reading is unaffected by a concurrent letter-search task. They further demonstrate the utility of a naturalistic, continuous-performance paradigm for studying the neural basis of language processing.
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