Alex White


Alex White, PhD
University of Washington

Date and Time

Monday, March 11, 2019
11:10 am - 12:30 pm


489 Minor Hall
Berkeley, CA

Dr. Alex White's Abstract

A bottleneck for visual word recognition in brain and behavior

In most environments, the visual system is confronted with many relevant objects simultaneously. That is especially true during reading. How many words on this page can you recognize at once? I will present behavioral evidence that a fundamental processing bottleneck prevents recognition of more than one word at a time. I will then present a neuroimaging study designed to identify the source of that bottleneck, focusing on two sub-regions within the left hemisphere “visual word form area” (VWFA), a critical component of the brain’s reading circuitry. The posterior sub-region can encode two words in parallel spatial channels that are independently modulated by selective attention. In contrast, the anterior portion of the VWFA has response properties consistent with a bottleneck. Therefore, although it is impossible to recognize two words at once, the visual system can process two words in parallel up to a late stage in the recognition hierarchy.