The inversion effect in visual word form processing

Chien Hui Kao, Der Yow Chen, Chien Chung Chen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Citations (Scopus)


Reading is one of the best well-practiced visual tasks for modern people. We investigated how the visual cortex analyzes spatial configuration in written words by studying the inversion effect in Chinese character processing. We measured the psychometric functions and brain activations for upright real-characters and non-characters and their inverted (upside down) versions. In the psychophysical experiment, the real-characters showed an inversion effect at both 1° and 4° eccentricities, while the non-characters showed no inversion effect for all eccentricities tested. In the functional magnetic resonance image (fMRI) experiment, the left fusiform gyrus and a small area in the bilateral lateral occipital regions showed a significant differential activation between upright and inverted real-characters. The bilateral fusiform gyri also show differential activation between upright real- and non-characters. The dorsal lateral occipital regions showed character-selective activation when compared with scrambled lines. The result suggested that the occipitoparietal regions may analyze the local features of an object regardless of its familiarity. Therefore, the lateral occipital regions may play an intermediate role in integrating the local information in an object. Finally, the fusiform gyrus plays a critical role in analyzing global configurations of a visual word form. This is consistent with the notion that the human visual cortex analyzes an object in a hierarchical way.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)217-230
Number of pages14
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2010 Feb

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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