Beyond the visual word form area: The orthography-semantics interface in spelling and reading

Jeremy J. Purcell, Jennifer Shea, Brenda Rapp

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Lexical orthographic information provides the basis for recovering the meanings of words in reading and for generating correct word spellings in writing. Research has provided evidence that an area of the left ventral temporal cortex, a subregion of what is often referred to as the visual word form area (VWFA), plays a significant role specifically in lexical orthographic processing. The current investigation goes beyond this previous work by examining the neurotopography of the interface of lexical orthography with semantics. We apply a novel lesion mapping approach with three individuals with acquired dysgraphia and dyslexia who suffered lesions to left ventral temporal cortex. To map cognitive processes to their neural substrates, this lesion mapping approach applies similar logical constraints to those used in cognitive neuropsychological research. Using this approach, this investigation: (a) identifies a region anterior to the VWFA that is important in the interface of orthographic information with semantics for reading and spelling; (b) determines that, within this orthography-semantics interface region (OSIR), access to orthography from semantics (spelling) is topographically distinct from access to semantics from orthography (reading); (c) provides evidence that, within this region, there is modality-specific access to and from lexical semantics for both spoken and written modalities, in both word production and comprehension. Overall, this study contributes to our understanding of the neural architecture at the lexical orthography-semantic-phonological interface within left ventral temporal cortex.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)482-510
Number of pages29
JournalCognitive neuropsychology
Issue number5-6
StatePublished - Aug 2014


  • Orthography
  • Reading
  • Semantics
  • Spelling
  • Visual word form area

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Cognitive Neuroscience

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