Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) was used to examine differences between children (9-12 years) and adults (21-31 years) in the distribution of brain activation during word processing. Orthographic, phonologic, semantic and syntactic tasks were used in both the auditory and visual modalities. Our two principal results were consistent with the hypothesis that development is characterized by increasing specialization. Our first analysis compared activation in children versus adults separately for each modality. Adults showed more activation than children in the unimodal visual areas of middle temporal gyrus and fusiform gyrus for processing written word forms and in the unimodal auditory areas of superior temporal gyrus for processing spoken word forms. Children showed more activation than adults for written word forms in posterior heteromodal regions (Wernicke's area), presumably for the integration of orthographic and phonologic word forms. Our second analysis compared activation in the visual versus auditory modality separately for children and adults. Children showed primarily overlap of activation in brain regions for the visual and auditory tasks. Adults showed selective activation in the unimodal auditory areas of superior temporal gyrus when processing spoken word forms and selective activation in the unimodal visual areas of middle temporal gyrus and fusiform gyrus when processing written word forms.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
- Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
- Developmental and Educational Psychology