Japanese and English sentence reading comprehension and writing systems: An fMRI study of first and second language effects on brain activation
Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) was used to compare brain activation from native Japanese (L1) readers reading hiragana (syllabic) and kanji (logographic) sentences, and English as a second language (L2). Kanji showed more activation than hiragana in right-hemisphere occipito-temporal lobe areas associated with visuospatial processing: hiragana, in turn, showed more activation than kanji in areas of the brain associated with phonological processing. L1 results underscore the difference in visuospatial and phonological processing demands between the systems. Reading in English as compared to either of the Japanese systems showed more activation in inferior frontal gyrus, medial frontal gyrus, and angular gyrus. The additional activation in English in these areas mull, have been associated with an increased cognitive demand for phonological processing and verbal working memory More generally, L2 results sugeest more effortful reading comprehension processes associated with phonological rehearsal, The study contributes to the understanding of differential brain responses to different writings systems and to reading comprehension in a second language.