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Open Access Publications from the University of California

The "visual word form area" is involved in successful memory encoding of both words and faces

  • Author(s): Mei, L
  • Xue, G
  • Chen, C
  • Xue, F
  • Zhang, M
  • Dong, Q
  • et al.

Previous studies have identified the critical role of the left fusiform cortex in visual word form processing, learning, and memory. However, this so-called visual word form area's (VWFA) other functions are not clear. In this study, we used fMRI and the subsequent memory paradigm to examine whether the putative VWFA was involved in the processing and successful memory encoding of faces as well as words. Twenty-two native Chinese speakers were recruited to memorize the visual forms of faces and Chinese words. Episodic memory for the studied material was tested 3. h after the scan with a recognition test. The fusiform face area (FFA) and the VWFA were functionally defined using separate localizer tasks. We found that, both within and across subjects, stronger activity in the VWFA was associated with better recognition memory of both words and faces. Furthermore, activation in the VWFA did not differ significantly during the encoding of faces and words. Our results revealed the important role of the so-called VWFA in face processing and memory and supported the view that the left mid-fusiform cortex plays a general role in the successful processing and memory of different types of visual objects (i.e., not limited to visual word forms). © 2010 Elsevier Inc.

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