Neural Oscillations Underlying Automatic Word Reading




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Automatic word reading is the process of instantaneously and effortlessly reading words from memory. Although a quotidian and seamless task for many, automatic word reading requires the systematic orchestration of multiple fast and simultaneous neural and cognitive processes. Here I used EEG, a temporally robust tool that also provides a window into the simultaneously engaged neurocognitive processes, to study how neural oscillations in the beta and the alpha frequencies change as skilled adult readers learn to automatically read novel pseudowords. Automaticity was elicited via a rhyming task that included four presentations of each target word and required participants to decide if the target word (e.g., daik) rhymed with its word pair. Participants also completed a set of behavioral assessments that provided measures of few cognitive skills believed to be important for automatic word reading. Findings revealed that beta power decreased across exposures during 150-250 ms post target onset over the left posterior areas of the brain. Alpha power also decreased across exposure during 150-350 ms post target onset over bilateral posterior regions. A Pearson correlation analysis between exposure related changes in neural oscillations and the collected behavioral measures revealed a significant correlation between exposure related beta changes and performance in the CTOPP elision – a behavioral assessment that consistently predicts later reading abilities. Taken together, findings revealed that neural oscillations in the beta and the alpha frequencies are implicated during the process of acquiring automatic word reading. This suggests that examining these EEG frequencies has the potential to provide key insights about the neurocognitive architecture underlying the complex and important process of automatic word reading.



Education, Language and Literature, Speech Communication