Neurophysiological Correlates of Top-Down Phonological and Semantic Influence during the Orthographic Processing of Novel Visual Word-Forms
The acquisition of new vocabulary is usually mediated by previous experience with language. In the visual domain, the representation of orthographically unfamiliar words at the phonological or conceptual levels may facilitate their orthographic learning. The neural correlates of this advantage were investigated by recording EEG activity during reading novel and familiar words across three different experiments (n = 22 each), manipulating the availability of previous knowledge on the novel written words. A different pattern of event-related potential (ERP) responses was found depending on the previous training, resembling cross-level top-down interactive effects during vocabulary acquisition. Thus, whereas previous phonological experience caused a modulation at the post-lexical stages of the visual recognition of novel written words (~520 ms), additional semantic training influenced their processing at a lexico-semantic stage (~320 ms). Moreover, early lexical differences (~180 ms) elicited in the absence of previous training did not emerge after both phonological and semantic training, reflecting similar orthographic processing and word-form access.