Behavioral and Neuroimaging Investigations of the Reciprocal Influence between Visual Statistical Learning of Positional Regularity and Reading Proficiency(2/3)

Project Details


Readers of specific writing systems presumably rely on their sensitivity to probabilistic statistics of different parts in words, and different words in sentences, to develop the knowledge of regularity “hidden” in the various levels of their native language after extensive exposure to the countless exemplars of written input. Through the approach that examines the relationship between individual differences in domain-general (learning) and domain-specific (reading) abilities, the present proposal aims to investigate the characteristics and neural correlates of statistical learning in the visual modality (VSL) of positional regularity in the temporal and spatial displays, and its reciprocal relationship with the functioning and acquisition, as well as the neuronal indices of processing efficiency, of reading.Based on our extensive research on Chinese character recognition and sentence comprehension and an ongoing two-year MOST project, we propose to conduct eight experiments in three years to investigate the following research questions: First, we develop a novel VSL task that measures concurrent learning of positional regularity in the temporal and spatial displays, and to delineate the capacity and specificity of this fundamental cognitive function (Exp. 1). Second, the neural correlates of VSL of temporal and spatial positional regularity are identified via neuroimaging tools with superior spatial and temporal resolution, namely, functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and magnetoencephalography (MEG), in Exp. 2 and 3, respectively. Third, we explore whether VSL of temporal and spatial positional regularity would be modulated by long-term literacy experience of reading alphabetic or logographic orthography by testing foreign and Chinese participants in Exp. 4 and 5, respectively. Fourth, to further support the link between VSL and reading behaviors, and to determine whether VSL in the temporal and spatial displays is specifically related to reading Chinese sentences and characters, respectively, we correlate these two kinds of VSL with brain activation identified in a task that particularly demands the knowledge of orthography-to-phonology conversion of Chinese characters via fMRI (Exp. 6), and with neuromagnetic signals identified in a task that particularly demands the knowledge of syntactic dependency of Chinese relative clauses via MEG (Exp. 7). Fifth, we determine whether the VSL ability of temporal and spatial positional regularity would have different degrees of predicting power to the improvement of French word recognition in beginning learners of French who are native readers of Chinese after one year of learning time (Exp. 8).Through the proposed experiments, we will not only generate new understanding of the sub-components of VSL and how they influence literacy processing/acquisition, we will also provide critical evidence for the neural bases of such links, which are rarely explored in the literature. In addition, we will conduct the unprecedented study to examine whether long-term experience of alphabetic or logographic orthography would modulate VSL of temporal and spatial positional regularity in return. The empirical findings will elucidate the bi-directional relationship between VSL and reading, and inform relevant theories in cognitive functions and in language processing. They also point to constructive directions for practical teaching strategies that take the characteristics of native and foreign language into account.
Effective start/end date1/08/2131/07/22

UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This project contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 5 - Gender Equality
  • SDG 12 - Responsible Consumption and Production
  • SDG 17 - Partnerships for the Goals


  • Temporal positional regularity
  • Spatial positional regularity
  • Reading acquisition
  • Chinese orthography-to-phonology conversion
  • Syntactic processing of Chinese relative clauses


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