Early reading skills and the ventral occipito-temporal cortex organization

Katarzyna Chyl*, Francesco Gentile, Agnieszka Dębska, Agnieszka Dynak, Magdalena Łuniewska, Marta Wójcik, Milene Bonte, Katarzyna Jednoróg

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Learning to read impacts the way the ventral occipitotemporal cortex (VOT) reorganizes. The postulated underlying mechanism of neuronal recycling was recently revisited. Neuroimaging data showed that voxels weakly specialized for visual processing keep their initial category selectivity (i.e., object or face processing) while acquiring an additional and stronger responsivity to written words. Here, we examined a large and diverse group of six-year-olds prior to formal literacy training (N = 72) using various data analysis techniques (univariate, multivariate, rapid adaptation) and types of stimuli (print, false fonts, houses, faces) to further explore how VOT changes and adapts to the novel skill of reading. We found that among several visual stimuli categories only print activated a wide network of language related areas outside of the bilateral visual cortex, and the level of reading skill was related to the strength of this activation, showing the development of the reading circuit. Rapid adaptation was not directly related to the level of reading skill in the young children studied here, but it clearly revealed the emergence of the reading network in readers. Most importantly, we found that the reorganization of the VOT is not in fact an "invasion" by reading acquisition-voxels previously activated for faces started to respond more for print, while at the same time keeping their previous function. We can thus conclude that the revised hypothesis of neuronal recycling is supported by our data.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)134-151
Number of pages18
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2023


  • Child
  • Humans
  • Child, Preschool
  • Temporal Lobe/physiology
  • Learning
  • Visual Cortex/physiology
  • Cerebral Cortex
  • Language
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging/methods
  • Brain Mapping
  • Occipital Lobe/physiology


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