Are brain structures of written word decoding and attention linked? Can we predict cognitive performance?
Find out in our article in Nature Communications.
While predominant models of visual word form area (VWFA) function argue for its specific role in decoding written language, other accounts propose a more general role of VWFA in complex visual processing. However, a comprehensive examination of structural and functional VWFA circuits and their relationship to behavior has been missing. Here, using high-resolution multimodal imaging data from a large Human Connectome Project cohort (N = 313), we demonstrate robust patterns of VWFA connectivity with both canonical language and attentional networks. Brain-behavior relationships revealed a striking pattern of double dissociation: structural connectivity of VWFA with lateral temporal language network predicted language, but not visuo-spatial attention abilities, while VWFA connectivity with dorsal fronto-parietal attention network predicted visuo-spatial attention, but not language abilities. Our findings support a multiplex model of VWFA function characterized by distinct circuits for integrating language and attention, and point to connectivity-constrained cognition as a key principle of human brain organization.