The dynamics of reading complex words: evidence from steady-state visual evoked potentials

Elisabeth Beyersmann, Veronica Montani, Johannes C Ziegler, Jonathan Grainger, & Ivilin Peev Stoianov

Scientific Reports 11, 15919 (2021)

The present study used steady-state visual evoked potentials (SSVEPs) to examine the spatio-temporal dynamics of reading morphologically complex words and test the neurophysiological activation pattern elicited by stems and suffixes. Three different types of target words were presented to proficient readers in a delayed naming task: truly suffixed words (e.g., farmer ), pseudo-suffixed words (e.g., corner ), and non-suffixed words (e.g., cashew ). Embedded stems and affixes were flickered at two different frequencies (18.75 Hz and 12.50 Hz, respectively). The stem data revealed an earlier SSVEP peak in the truly suffixed and pseudo-suffixed conditions compared to the non-suffixed condition, thus providing evidence for the form-based activation of embedded stems during reading. The suffix data also showed a dissociation in the SSVEP response between suffixes and non-suffixes with an additional activation boost for truly suffixed words. The observed differences are discussed in the context of current models of complex word recognition.

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