Letter-by-letter readers identify each letter of the word they are reading serially in left to right order before recognizing the word. When their letter naming is also impaired, letter-by-letter reading is inaccurate and can render even single word reading very poor. Tactile and/or kinesthetic strategies have been reported to improve reading in these patients, but only under certain conditions or for a limited set of stimuli.
The primary aim of the current study was to determine whether a tactile/kinesthetic treatment could significantly improve reading specifically under normal reading conditions, i.e. reading untrained words presented in free vision and read without overt use of the strategy.
Methods & Procedures
Three chronic letter-by-letter readers participated in a tactile/kinesthetic treatment aimed at first improving letter naming accuracy (phase 1) and then letter-by-letter reading speed (phase 2). In a multiple case series design, accuracy and speed of reading untrained words without overt use of the trained tactile/kinesthetic strategy was assessed before phase 1, after phase 1 and again after phase 2.
Outcomes & Results
All three patients significantly improved both their speed and accuracy reading untrained words without overt use of the trained tactile/kinesthetic strategy. All three patients required the additional practice in phase 2 to achieve significant improvement. Treatment did not target sentence level reading, yet two of the three patients became so adept that they could read entire sentences.
This study replicates previous findings on the efficacy of tactile/kinesthetic treatment for letter-by-letter readers with poor letter naming. It further demonstrates that this treatment can alter cognitive processing such that words never specifically trained can be read in free vision without overtly using the trained strategy. The data suggest that an important element in achieving this level of generalization is continuing training beyond the point of initial mastery (i.e. accurate letter naming).
aphasia; cognitive rehabilitation; Speech-Language Pathology; pure alexia; letter-by-letter reading; generalization
Phonologic text alexia (PhTA) is a reading disorder in which reading of pseudowords is impaired, but reading of real words is impaired only when reading text. Oral reading accuracy remains well preserved when words are presented individually, but when presented in text the part-of-speech effect that is often seen in phonologic alexia (PhA) emerges.
To determine whether repetition priming could strengthen and/or maintain the activation of words during text reading.
Methods & Procedures
We trained NYR, a patient with PhTA, to use a strategy, Sentence Building, designed to improve accuracy of reading words in text. The strategy required NYR to first read the initial word, and then build up the sentence by adding on sequential words, in a step-wise manner, utilizing the benefits of repetition priming to enhance accuracy.
Outcomes & Results
When using the strategy, NYR displayed improved accuracy not only for sentences she practiced using the strategy, but unpracticed sentences as well. Additionally, NYR performed better on a test of comprehension when using the strategy, as compared to without the strategy.
In light of research linking repetition priming to increased neural processing efficiency, our results suggest that use of this compensatory strategy improves reading accuracy and comprehension by temporarily boosting phonologic activation levels.
phonologic text alexia; repetition priming; aphasia; alexia; rehabilitation
Prosodic, or expressive, reading is considered to be one of the essential features of the achievement of reading fluency. The purpose of this study was to determine (a) the degree to which the prosody of syntactically complex sentences varied as a function of reading speed and accuracy and (b) the role that reading prosody might play in mediating individual differences in comprehension. Spectrographic analysis of 80 third graders' and 29 adults' reading of a syntactically complex text was carried out. Oral reading skill was measured through standardized assessments. Pitch changes (changes in fundamental frequency) and pause duration were measured for sentence-final words of basic declarative sentences, basic declarative quotatives, wh questions, and yes–no questions; words preceding commas in complex adjectival phrases; and words preceding phrase-final commas. Children who had quick and accurate oral reading had shorter and more adultlike pause structures, larger pitch declinations at the end of basic declarative sentences, and larger pitch rises at the end of yes–no questions. Furthermore, children who showed larger basic declarative sentence declinations and larger pitch rises following yes–no questions tended to demonstrate greater reading comprehension skills.
prosody; comprehension; oral reading; fluency; punctuation
The present study examined how word-initial letters influence lexical access during reading. Eye movements were monitored as participants read sentences containing target words. Three factors were independently manipulated. First, target words had either high or low constraining word-initial letter sequences (e.g., dwarf or clown, respectively). Second, targets were either high or low in frequency of occurrence (e.g., train or stain, respectively). Third, targets were embedded in either biasing or neutral contexts (i.e., targets were high or low in their predictability). This 2 (constraint) × 2 (frequency) × 2 (context) design allowed us to examine the conditions under which a word’s initial letter sequence could facilitate processing. Analyses of fixation duration data revealed significant main effects of constraint, frequency, and context. Moreover, in measures taken to reflect “early” lexical processing (i.e., first and single fixation duration), there was a significant interaction between constraint and context. The overall pattern of findings suggests lexical access is facilitated by highly constraining word-initial letters. Results are discussed in comparison to recent studies of lexical features involved in word recognition during reading.
reading; eye movements; word-initial letter constraint; word frequency; contextual predictability
Crowding, the difficulty in recognizing a letter in close proximity with other letters, has been suggested as an explanation for slow reading in people with central vision loss. The goals of this study were (1) to examine whether increased letter spacing in words, which presumably reduces crowding among letters, would benefit reading for people with central vision loss; and (2) to relate our finding to the current account of faulty feature integration of crowding.
Fourteen observers with central vision loss read aloud single sentences, one word at a time, using rapid serial visual presentation (RSVP). Reading speeds were calculated based on the RSVP exposure durations yielding 80% accuracy. Letters were rendered in Courier, a fixed-width font. Observers were tested at 1.4× the critical print size (CPS), three were also tested at 0.8× CPS. Reading speed was measured for five center-to-center letter spacings (range: 0.5–2× the standard spacing). The preferred retinal locus (PRL) for fixation was determined for nine of the observers, from which we calculated the horizontal dimension of the integration field for crowding.
All observers showed increased reading speed with letter spacing for small spacings, until an optimal spacing, beyond which reading speed either showed a plateau, or dropped as letter spacing further increased. The optimal spacing averaged 0.95±0.06× [±95%CI] the standard spacing for 1.4× CPS (similar for 0.8× CPS), which was not different from the standard. When converted to angular size, the measured values of the optimal letter spacing for reading show a good relationship with the calculated horizontal dimension of the integration field.
Increased letter spacing beyond the standard size, which presumably reduces crowding among letters in text, does not improve reading speed for people with central vision loss. The optimal letter spacing for reading can be predicted based on the PRL.
reading; crowding; central vision loss; low vision; age-related macular degeneration
Reading familiar words differs from reading unfamiliar non-words in two ways. First, word reading is faster and more accurate than reading of unfamiliar non-words. Second, effects of letter length are reduced for words, particularly when they are presented in the right visual field in familiar formats. Two experiments are reported in which right-handed participants read aloud non-words presented briefly in their left and right visual fields before and after training on those items. The non-words were interleaved with familiar words in the naming tests. Before training, naming was slow and error prone, with marked effects of length in both visual fields. After training, fewer errors were made, naming was faster, and the effect of length was much reduced in the right visual field compared with the left. We propose that word learning creates orthographic word forms in the mid-fusiform gyrus of the left cerebral hemisphere. Those word forms allow words to access their phonological and semantic representations on a lexical basis. But orthographic word forms also interact with more posterior letter recognition systems in the middle/inferior occipital gyri, inducing more parallel processing of right visual field words than is possible for any left visual field stimulus, or for unfamiliar non-words presented in the right visual field.
word learning; reading; hemispheres; visual fields; word length; case alternation
Participants’ eye movements were recorded as they read sentences with words containing transposed adjacent letters. Transpositions were either external (e.g., problme, rpoblem) or internal (e.g., porblem, probelm) and at either the beginning (e.g., rpoblem, porblem) or end (e.g., problme, probelm) of words. The results showed disruption for words with transposed letters compared to the normal baseline condition, and the greatest disruption was observed for word-initial transpositions. In Experiment 1, transpositions within low frequency words led to longer reading times than when letters were transposed within high frequency words. Experiment 2 demonstrated that the position of word-initial letters is most critical even when parafoveal preview of words to the right of fixation is unavailable. The findings have important implications for the roles of different letter positions in word recognition and the effects of parafoveal preview on word recognition processes.
reading; eye movements; word recognition; transposed letters; parafoveal processing
We report a study of incremental learning of new word meanings over multiple episodes. A new method called MESA (Markov Estimation of Semantic Association) tracked this learning through the automated assessment of learner-generated definitions. The multiple word learning episodes varied in the strength of contextual constraint provided by sentences, in the consistency of this constraint, and in the spacing of sentences provided for each trained word. Effects of reading skill were also examined. Results showed that MESA scores increased with each word learning encounter. MESA growth curves were affected by context constraint, spacing of practice, and reading skill. Most important, the accuracy of participant responses (MESA scores) during learning predicted which words would be retained over a 1-week period. These results support the idea that word learning is incremental and that partial gains in knowledge depend on properties of both the context and the learner. The introduction of MESA presents new opportunities to test word-learning theories and the complex factors that affect growth of word knowledge over time and in different contexts.
Readers’ eye movements were monitored as they read sentences in which two noun phrases or two independent clauses were connected by the word or (NP-coordination and S-coordination, respectively). The word either could be present or absent earlier in the sentence. When either was present, the material immediately following or was read more quickly, across both sentence types. In addition, there was evidence that readers misanalyzed the S-coordination structure as an NP-coordination structure only when either was absent. The authors interpret the results as indicating that the word either enabled readers to predict the arrival of a coordination structure; this predictive activation facilitated processing of this structure when it ultimately arrived, and in the case of S-coordination sentences, enabled readers to avoid the incorrect NP-coordination analysis. The authors argue that these results support parsing theories according to which the parser can build predictable syntactic structure before encountering the corresponding lexical input.
syntactic parsing; language comprehension; coordination; top-down processing; eye movements in reading
Research on written language comprehension has generally assumed that the phonological properties of a word have little effect on sentence comprehension beyond the processes of word recognition. Two experiments investigated this assumption. Participants silently read relative clauses in which two pairs of words either did or did not have a high degree of phonological overlap. Participants were slower reading and less accurate comprehending the overlap sentences compared to the non-overlapping controls, even though sentences were matched for plausibility and differed by only two words across overlap conditions. A comparison across experiments showed that the overlap effects were larger in the more difficult object relative than in subject relative sentences. The reading patterns showed that phonological representations affect not only memory for recently encountered sentences but also the developing sentence interpretation during on-line processing. Implications for theories of sentence processing and memory are discussed.
Traditionally, event-related brain potential (ERP) studies of language processing have presented words at a fixed rate using rapid serial visual presentation. Recent studies suggest, however, that the processes engaged during sentence comprehension are contingent on word presentation rate. These findings underscore the importance of allowing participants to read at a natural pace. The present study employed simultaneous self-paced reading and ERP methodologies to examine behavioral and neural responses while participants read sentences containing pragmatic or morphosyntactic violations or no violations. ERP and self-paced reading results replicated previous findings. This novel combination of behavioral and ERP methodologies combines the high temporal resolution and direct neural measures offered by ERPs with the more natural reading environment and information about processing load provided by self-paced reading.
Event-related potentials; Self-paced reading; P600; N400; Language; Sentence; Methodology
Fluent readers process written text rapidly and accurately, and comprehend what they read. Historically, reading fluency has been modeled as the product of discrete skills such as single word decoding. More recent conceptualizations emphasize that fluent reading is the product of competency in, and the coordination of, multiple cognitive sub-skills (a multi-componential view). In this study, we examined how the pattern of activation in core reading regions changes as the ability to read fluently is manipulated through reading speed. We evaluated 13 right-handed adults with a novel fMRI task assessing fluent sentence reading and lower-order letter reading at each participant’s normal fluent reading speed, as well as constrained (slowed) and accelerated reading speeds. Comparing fluent reading conditions with rest revealed regions including bilateral occipito-fusiform, left middle temporal, and inferior frontal gyral clusters across reading speeds. The selectivity of these regions’ responses to fluent sentence reading was shown by comparison with the letter reading task. Region of interest analyses showed that at constrained and accelerated speeds these regions responded significantly more to fluent sentence reading. Critically, as reading speed increased, activation increased in a single reading-related region: occipital/fusiform cortex (left > right). These results demonstrate that while brain regions engaged in reading respond selectively during fluent reading, these regions respond differently as the ability to read fluently is manipulated. Implications for our understanding of reading fluency, reading development, and reading disorders are discussed.
reading; language; fluency; fluent; fMRI; event-related
In this study, we examined eye movement guidance in Chinese reading. We embedded either a 2-character word or a 4-character word in the same sentence frame, and observed the eye movements of Chinese readers when they read these sentences. We found that when all saccades into the target words were considered that readers eyes tended to land near the beginning of the word. However, we also found that Chinese readers’ eyes landed at the center of words when they made only a single fixation on a word, and that they landed at the beginning of a word when they made more than one fixation on a word. However, simulations that we carried out suggest that these findings can’t be taken to unambiguously argue for word-based saccade targeting in Chinese reading. We discuss alternative accounts of eye guidance in Chinese reading and suggest that eye movement target planning for Chinese readers might involve a combination of character-based and word-based targeting contingent on word segmentation processes.
Eye movements; reading; Chinese reading
The present study explored whether semantic and motor systems are functionally interwoven via the use of a dual-task paradigm. According to embodied language accounts that propose an automatic and necessary involvement of the motor system in conceptual processing, concurrent processing of hand-related information should interfere more with hand movements than processing of unrelated body-part (i.e., foot, mouth) information. Across three experiments, 100 right-handed participants performed left- or right-hand tapping movements while repeatedly reading action words related to different body-parts, or different body-part names, in both aloud and silent conditions. Concurrent reading of single words related to specific body-parts, or the same words embedded in sentences differing in syntactic and phonological complexity (to manipulate context-relevant processing), and reading while viewing videos of the actions and body-parts described by the target words (to elicit visuomotor associations) all interfered with right-hand but not left-hand tapping rate. However, this motor interference was not affected differentially by hand-related stimuli. Thus, the results provide no support for proposals that body-part specific resources in cortical motor systems are shared between overt manual movements and meaning-related processing of words related to the hand.
action representations; embodied language; motor system; word meaning
Letter recognition is the foundation of the human reading system. Despite this, it tends to receive little attention in computational modelling of single word reading. Here we present a model that can be trained to recognise letters in various spatial transformations. When presented with degraded stimuli the model makes letter confusion errors that correlate with human confusability data. Analyses of the internal representations of the model suggest that a small set of learned visual feature detectors support the recognition of both upper case and lower case letters in various fonts and transformations. We postulated that a damaged version of the model might be expected to act in a similar manner to patients suffering from pure alexia. Summed error score generated from the model was found to be a very good predictor of the reading times of pure alexic patients, outperforming simple word length, and accounting for 47% of the variance. These findings are consistent with a hypothesis suggesting that impaired visual processing is a key to understanding the strong word-length effects found in pure alexic patients.
► We develop a connectionist letter recognition model which provides the link between visual input and letter recognition. ► The model can deal with the invariance problem and generalise to previously unseen letters. ► The model can extract key features for letter recognition. ► We demonstrate the model can simulate confusability effects in normal readers and predict PA patients' RTs. ► Impaired visual processing is a key to understanding the strong word-length effects found in PA patients.
Letter recognition; Letter confusability; Pure alexia; Computational modelling
Evidence is presented that eye-movement patterns during reading distinguish costs associated with the syntactic processing of sentences from costs associated with relating sentence meaning to real world probabilities. Participants (N=30) read matching sets of sentences that differed by a single word, making the sentence syntactically anomalous (but understandable), pragmatically anomalous, or non-anomalous. Syntactic and pragmatic anomaly each caused perturbations in eye-movements. Subsequent to the anomaly, the patterns diverged. Syntactic anomaly generated many regressions initially, with rapid return to baseline. Pragmatic anomaly resulted in lengthened reading times, followed by a gradual increase in regressions that reached a maximum at the end of the sentence. Evidence of rapid sensitivity to pragmatic information supports the use of timing data in resolving the debate over the autonomy of linguistic processing. The divergent patterns of eye-movements support indications from neuro-cognitive studies of a principled distinction between syntactic and pragmatic processing procedures within the language processing mechanism.
The representation of words in sentences can involve the activation and integration of perceptual information. For example, readers who are asked to view pictures of objects relating to a word in a sentence are influenced by perceptual information in the sentence context—readers are faster to respond to a picture of a whole apple after reading “There is an apple in the bag” than after reading “There is an apple in the salad.” The purpose of this study was to examine how the two cerebral hemispheres use perceptual information about words as a function of sentence context. Patients who had damage to the left or right hemisphere and age-matched control participants read sentences that described, but did not entail, the shape or state of an object. They then made recognition judgments to pictures that either matched or mismatched the perceptual form implied by the sentence. Responses and latencies were examined for a match effect—faster and more accurate responses to pictures in the match than mismatch condition—controlling for comprehension ability and lesion size. When comprehension ability and lesion size are properly controlled, left-hemisphere damaged patients and control participants exhibited the expected match effect, whereas right-hemisphere damaged participants showed no effect of match condition. These results are consistent with research implicating the right hemisphere in the representation of contextually relevant perceptual information.
hemispheric differences; perceptual symbol; language comprehension; laterality; right-hemisphere damage; left-hemisphere damage
People falsely endorse semantic associates and morpheme rearrangements of studied words at high rates in recognition testing. The co-existence of these results is paradoxical: Models of reading that presume automatic extraction of meaning can not account for elevated false memory for foils that are related to studied stimuli only by their visual form, and models without such a process can not account for false memory to semantic foils. Here we show how sentence and list study contexts encourage different encoding modes and consequently lead to different patterns of memory errors. Participants studied compound words such as “tailspin” and “floodgate” as single words or embedded in sentences. We show that sentence contexts led subjects to be better able to discriminate conjunction lures (”tailgate”) from old words than did list contexts. Conversely, list contexts led to superior discrimination of semantic lures (”nosedive”) from old words than did sentence contexts.
recognition memory; false memory; context effects; conjunction errors; semantic errors; reading; encoding strategies
We used eye-tracking technology to examine young and old adults’ on-line performance in the reading in distraction paradigm. Participants read target sentences and answered comprehension questions following each sentence. In some sentences, single word distracters were presented in either italic or red font. Distracters could be related or unrelated to the target text. On-line measures including probability of fixation, fixation duration, and number of fixations to distracting text revealed no age differences in text processing. However, young adults did have an advantage over older adults in overall reading time and text comprehension. These results provide no support for an inhibition deficit account of age differences in the reading in distraction paradigm, but are consistent with Dywan and Murphy’s (1995) suggestion that older adults are less able than young to distinguish target and distracter information held in working memory.
Reading disability (RD) typically consists of deficits in word reading accuracy and/or reading comprehension. While it is well known that word reading accuracy deficits lead to comprehension deficits (general reading disability, GRD), less is understood about neuropsychological profiles of children who exhibit adequate word reading accuracy but nevertheless develop specific reading comprehension deficits (S-RCD). Establishing the underlying neuropsychological processes associated with different RD types is essential for ultimately understanding core neurobiological bases of reading comprehension. To this end, the present study investigated isolated and contextual word fluency, oral language, and executive function on reading comprehension performance in 56 9- to 14-year-old children [21 typically developing (TD), 18 GRD, and 17 S-RCD]. Results indicated that TD and S-RCD participants read isolated words at a faster rate than participants with GRD; however, both RD groups had contextual word fluency and oral language weaknesses. Additionally, S-RCD participants showed prominent weaknesses in executive function. Implications for understanding the neuropsychological bases for reading comprehension are discussed.
Executive function; Fluency; Oral language; Reading comprehension; Reading disabilities
In two experiments the effects of word repetition, synonymy, and coreference on event-related brain potentials during text processing were studied. Participants read one (Experiment 1) or two sentence (Experiment 2) texts in which critical nouns were preceded by the definite (the) or indefinite (a) articles. Experiment 1 was run as a control to verify that differences in article processing in the second sentences of Experiment 2 would not contaminate the ERPs to critical noun items. They did not. In Experiment 2, an initial sentence was used to set up a context and contained either a first presentation or synonym of the critical word from the second sentence. N400 (but not Late Positive Component; LPC) priming effects were found for repetitions and synonyms (larger for repetitions) in second sentences. This extends observations of priming in word lists and single sentences to two-sentence texts. There was also a greater left anterior negativity or “LAN” for coreferential critical nouns (those following the article “The”) compared to non-coreferential critical nouns (those following the article “A”) suggesting that ERPs are sensitive to working memory processes engaged during referential assignment. In response to the articles themselves, there was a greater N400-700 elicited by the article “A” vs. “The.” Finally, there was a greater N400-like negativity to the final words of non-coreferential sentences implying that the meanings of these sentences were difficult to integrate with the discourse level representation established by the prior sentence.
N400; LAN; ERPs; Coreference; Anaphoric processing; Sentence processing
In the current paper, we introduce a new methodology for detecting whether a word in a sentence is conceptually represented as plural and use it to shed light on a debate about whether comprehenders interpret singular indefinite noun phrases within a distributed predicate as plural during on-line reading. Experiment 1 extended a methodology previously used by Berent, Pinker, Tzelgov, Bibi, and Goldfarb (2005) to test individual words or word pairs by, at a critical word, having readers judge whether one or two words appeared on a computer screen while performing self-paced reading on a sentence presented in one- and two-word chunks. Consistent with Berent et al., Experiment 1 indicated that participants were slower to judge that one word was on the screen when the word was plural (e.g., cats) than when it was singular (e.g., cat). Experiment 2 used this paradigm to show that readers build different conceptual representations for distributed versus collective predicates, and interpret a singular indefinite noun phrase within a distributed predicate as plural (e.g., Kaup, Kelter, & Habel, 2002, but cf. Filik, Paterson, & Liversedge, 2004; Paterson, Filik, & Liversedge, 2008).
Four- and five-yr-old disadvantaged children were read sentences composed of varying numbers of short phrases. The children were asked to repeat each sentence, but the accuracy of their imitations was not differentially reinforced. The teacher stressed (emphasized) certain words as she read each sentence. The proportion of words that were stressed was systematically varied. In general, the children imitated only parts of most sentences. Stress was effective in influencing which parts of a sentence the children would imitate, but only when relatively few words were stressed. Stressing a word increased the probability of a child's imitating that word (and, to a large extent, the entire phrase containing that word) as an inverse function of the proportion of the words that were stressed.
Letter-by-letter (LBL) reading is the phenomenon whereby individuals with acquired alexia decode words by sequential identification of component letters. In cases where letter recognition or letter naming is impaired, however, a LBL reading approach is obviated, resulting in a nearly complete inability to read, or global alexia. In some such cases, a treatment strategy wherein letter tracing is used to provide tactile and/or kinesthetic input has resulted in improved letter identification. In this study, a kinesthetic treatment approach was implemented with an individual who presented with severe alexia in the context of relatively preserved recognition of orally spelled words, and mildly impaired oral/written spelling. Eight weeks of kinesthetic treatment resulted in improved letter identification accuracy and oral reading of trained words; however, the participant remained unable to successfully decode untrained words. Further testing revealed that, in addition to the visual-verbal disconnection that resulted in impaired word reading and letter naming, her limited ability to derive benefit from the kinesthetic strategy was attributable to a disconnection that prevented access to letter names from kinesthetic input. We propose that this kinesthetic-verbal disconnection resulted from damage to the left parietal lobe and underlying white matter, a neuroanatomical feature that is not typically observed in patients with global alexia or classic LBL reading. This unfortunate combination of visual-verbal and kinesthetic-verbal disconnections demonstrated in this individual resulted in a persistent multimodal alexia syndrome that was resistant to behavioral treatment. To our knowledge, this is the first case in which the nature of this form of multimodal alexia has been fully characterized, and our findings provide guidance regarding the requisite cognitive skills and lesion profiles that are likely to be associated with a positive response to tactile/kinesthetic treatment.
acquired alexia; letter-by-letter reading; pure alexia; global alexia; alexia with agraphia; kinesthetic treatment
Several recent studies have revealed that words presented with a small increase in interletter spacing are identified faster than words presented with the default interletter spacing (i.e., w a t e r faster than water). Modeling work has shown that this advantage occurs at an early encoding level. Given the implications of this finding for the ease of reading in the new digital era, here we examined whether the beneficial effect of small increases in interletter spacing can be generalized to a normal reading situation.
We conducted an experiment in which the participant’s eyes were monitored when reading sentences varying in interletter spacing: i) sentences were presented with the default (0.0) interletter spacing; ii) sentences presented with a +1.0 interletter spacing; and iii) sentences presented with a +1.5 interletter spacing.
Results showed shorter fixation duration times as an inverse function of interletter spacing (i.e., fixation durations were briefest with +1.5 spacing and slowest with the default spacing).
Subtle increases in interletter spacing facilitate the encoding of the fixated word during normal reading. Thus, interletter spacing is a parameter that may affect the ease of reading, and it could be adjustable in future implementations of e-book readers.