Attentional shifting and the role of the dorsal pathway in visual word recognition

Kristen Pammer*, Peter C. Hansen, Ian E. Holliday, Piers L. Cornelissen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A substantial amount of evidence has been collected to propose an exclusive role for the dorsal visual pathway in the control of guided visual search mechanisms, specifically in the preattentive direction of spatial selection [Vidyasagar, T. R. (1999). A neuronal model of attentional spotlight: Parietal guiding the temporal. Brain Research and Reviews, 30, 66-76; Vidyasagar, T. R. (2001). From attentional gating in macaque primary visual cortex to dyslexia in humans. Progress in Brain Research, 134, 297-312]. Moreover, it has been suggested recently that the dorsal visual pathway is specifically involved in the spatial selection and sequencing required for orthographic processing in visual word recognition. In this experiment we manipulate the demands for spatial processing in a word recognition, lexical decision task by presenting target words in a normal spatial configuration, or where the constituent letters of each word are spatially shifted relative to each other. Accurate word recognition in the Shifted-words condition should demand higher spatial encoding requirements, thereby making greater demands on the dorsal visual stream. Magnetoencephalographic (MEG) neuroimaging revealed a high frequency (35-40 Hz) right posterior parietal activation consistent with dorsal stream involvement occurring between 100 and 300 ms post-stimulus onset, and then again at 200-400 ms. Moreover, this signal was stronger in the shifted word condition, compared to the normal word condition. This result provides neurophysiological evidence that the dorsal visual stream may play an important role in visual word recognition and reading. These results further provide a plausible link between early stage theories of reading, and the magnocellular-deficit theory of dyslexia, which characterises many types of reading difficulty. © 2006 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2926-2936
Number of pages11
Issue number14
Early online date1 Sept 2006
Publication statusPublished - 2006


  • dorsal visual stream
  • lexical decision
  • magnetoencephalography
  • magnocellular
  • reading
  • synthetic aperture magnetometry (SAM)


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