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Journal Article

Neural substrates of phonological selection for Japanese character Kanji based on fMRI investigations

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Matsuo, K., Chen, S.-H.-A., Hue, C.-W., Wu, C.-Y., Bagarinao, E., Tseng, W.-Y.-I., et al. (2010). Neural substrates of phonological selection for Japanese character Kanji based on fMRI investigations. NeuroImage, 50(3), 1280-1291. doi:10.1016/j.neuroimage.2009.12.099.

Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-0014-BAB9-3
Japanese and Chinese both share the same ideographic/logographic character system. How these characters are processed, however, is inherently different for each language. We harnessed the unique property of homophone judgment in Japanese kanji to provide an analogous Chinese condition using event-related functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) in 33 native Japanese speakers. We compared two types of kanji: (1) kanji that usually evokes only one pronunciation to Japanese speakers, which is representative of most Chinese characters (monophonic character); (2) kanji that evoked multiple pronunciation candidates, which is typical in Japanese kanji (heterophonic character). Results showed that character pairs with multiple sound possibilities increased activation in posterior regions of the left, middle and inferior frontal gyri (MFG and IFG), the bilateral anterior insulae, and the left anterior cingulate cortex as compared with those of kanji with only one sound. The activity seen in the MFG, dorsal IFG, and ventral IFG in the left posterior lateral prefrontal cortex, which was thought to correspond with language components of orthography, phonology, and semantics, respectively, was discussed in regards to their potentially important roles in information selection among competing sources of the components. A comparison with previous studies suggested that detailed analyses of activation in these language areas could explain differences between Japanese and Chinese, such as a greater involvement of the prefrontal language production regions for Japanese, whereas, for Chinese there is more phonological processing of inputs in the superior temporal gyrus.