Brenda Rapp
Jeremy Purcell

Dept. of Cogntive Science, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD



Rapp, B. & Lipka, K. (2011). The literate brain: the relationship between spelling and reading. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 23, 1180-1197.
Notes: We report the results of an fMRI investigation of the neural bases of written language comprehension (reading) and production (spelling). Both tasks were examined in the same individuals, allowing greater precision in establishing the relationship between the neural underpinnings of these two cognitive functions. Also examined was the relationship between written language substrates and those involved in face and object (house) processing. The results reveal that reading and spelling share specific left hemisphere substrates in the mid-fusiform gyrus and in the inferior frontal gyrus/junction. Furthermore, the results indicate that the left mid-fusiform substrates are specifically involved in lexical orthographic processing. We also find that written language and face processing exhibit largely complementary activation patterns in both the fusiform and the inferior frontal/junction areas, with left and right lateralization, respectively. In sum, these results provide perhaps the strongest evidence to date of components that are shared by written language comprehension (reading) and production (spelling), and they further our understanding of the role of literacy within the larger repertoire of cognitive operations and their neural substrates
Department of Cognitive Science, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD 21218, USA. e-mail:

Tsapkini, K., Vindiola, M., & Rapp, B. (2011). Patterns of brain reorganization subsequent to left fusiform damage: fMRI evidence from visual processing of words and pseudowords, faces and objects. NeuroImage, 55, 1357-1372.
Notes: Little is known about the neural reorganization that takes place subsequent to lesions that affect orthographic processing (reading and/or spelling). We report on an fMRI investigation of an individual with a left mid-fusiform resection that affected both reading and spelling (Tsapkini & Rapp, 2010). To investigate possible patterns of functional reorganization, we compared the behavioral and neural activation patterns of this individual with those of a group of control participants for the tasks of silent reading of words and pseudowords and the passive viewing of faces and objects, all tasks that typically recruit the inferior temporal lobes. This comparison was carried out with methods that included a novel application of Mahalanobis distance statistics, and revealed: (1) normal behavioral and neural responses for face and object processing, (2) evidence of neural reorganization bilaterally in the posterior fusiform that supported normal performance in pseudoword reading and which contributed to word reading (3) evidence of abnormal recruitment of the bilateral anterior temporal lobes indicating compensatory (albeit insufficient) recruitment of mechanisms for circumventing the word reading deficit
Department of Neurology, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD 21205, USA.

Tsapkini, K. & Rapp, B. (2010). The orthography-specific functions of the left fusiform gyrus: evidence of modality and category specificity. Cortex, 46, 185-205.
Notes: We report on an investigation of the cognitive functions of an individual with a resection of the left fusiform gyrus. This individual and a group of control participants underwent testing to examine the question of whether or not there are neural substrates within the left fusiform gyrus that are dedicated to orthographic processing. We evaluated the modality specificity (written vs spoken language) and the category specificity (written language vs other visual categories) of this individual's impairments. The results clearly reveal deficits affecting lexical processes in both reading and spelling. Specifically, we find disruption of normal, rapid access to meaning from print in reading and of accurate retrieval of the spellings of words from their meaning in writing. These deficits stand in striking contrast with intact processing of spoken language and categories of visual stimuli such as line drawings of objects and faces. The modality and category specificity of the deficits provide clear evidence of neural substrates within the left-mid-fusiform gyrus that are specialized and necessary for normal orthographic processing
Department of Cognitive Science, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD 21218-2685, USA.

Jones, A. C., Folk, J. R., & Rapp, B. (2009). All letters are not equal: subgraphemic texture in orthographic working memory. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning,Memory,and Cognition, 35, 1389-1402.
Notes: A central issue in the study of reading and spelling has been to understand how the consistency or frequency of letter-sound relationships affects written language processing. We present, for the first time, evidence that the sound-spelling frequency of subgraphemic elements of words (letters within digraphs) contributes to the accuracy with which these letters are produced in spelling. We report findings from 2 studies that demonstrate that letters within digraphs display differential susceptibility to error under conditions of disruption to orthographic working memory (O-WM). In the 1st, O-WM was disrupted as a result of neurological damage; in the 2nd, O-WM disruption was produced in neurologically intact, skilled spellers under dual task conditions with a shadowing task carried out during spelling. In both studies, segments with low versus high levels of sound-letter convergence, a measure of the frequency of sublexical mappings, were more vulnerable to disruption even when factors such as letter position, consonant-vowel context, and phoneme-to-grapheme mapping probability of the digraphs were controlled. These results contribute to our understanding of the internal texture of orthographic representations, providing evidence that individual letters differ in their activation strength and, as a result, in their susceptibility to error

Rapp, B., Folk, J. R., & Tainturier, M. J. (2001). Word reading. In B.Rapp (Ed.), The handbook of cognitive neuropsychology (pp. 233-262). Philadelphia,PA: Psychology Press.

Badecker, W., Rapp, B., & Caramazza, A. (1996). Lexical morphology and the two orthographic routes. Cognitive Neuropsychology, 13, 161-175.

Rapp, B. C. & Caramazza, A. (1991). Spatially determined deficits in letter and word processing. Cognitive Neuropsychology, 8, 275-311.
Notes: We describe the performance of a  brain-damaged subject, HR, whose reading performance can be described as letter-by-letter reading. On a number of experimental tasks she exhibited deficits in letter and bar detection. Her performance in these tasks indicated that her impairment in nonlexical letter detection tasks was spatially determined. We interpretthe results within a multi-stage model of prelexical visual/perceptual processing. Within such a model, the impairments can be attributed to deficits at retino- centric and stimulus-centered levels of representation. We explain HR's letter-by-letter reading performance in terms of these deficits. In addition, we attempt to account for the differences in reading performance among patients with spaitally determined deficits in terms of the proposed multi-stage model of word recognition.

Anders Gade