Recently brain imaging evidence indicated that letter/speech-sound integration, necessary for establishing fluent reading, takes place in auditory association areas and that the integration is influenced by stimulus onset asynchrony (SOA) between the letter and the speech-sound. In the present study, we used a specific ERP measure known for its automatic character, the mismatch negativity (MMN), to investigate the time course and automaticity of letter/speech-sound integration. We studied the effect of visual letters and SOA on the MMN elicited by a deviant speech-sound. We found a clear enhancement of the MMN by simultaneously presenting a letter, but without changing the auditory stimulation. This enhancement diminishes linearly with increasing SOA. These results suggest that letters and speech-sounds are processed as compound stimuli early and automatically in the auditory association cortex of fluent readers and that this processing is strongly dependent on timing.
Froyen, D. J. W., van Atteveldt, N. M., Bonte, M. L., & Blomert, L. P. M. (2008). Cross-modal enhancement of the MMN to speech-sounds indicates early and automatic integration of letters and speech-sounds. Neuroscience Letters, 430(1), 23-28. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neulet.2007.10.014