Research objectives

Reading is a unique human ability and modern societies rely extensively on literacy skills. Reading disability can therefore have a profound personal, economic and social impact. Yet, the scientific understanding of the neural basis of reading is still underdeveloped and a better understanding of normal reading processes could potentially help individuals with developmental dyslexia (between 3-6 million people in the UK alone), and those with acquired reading disabilities through injury or disease.

We want to understand the neural basis of reading in general and visual word recognition in particular. To do this, we use a combination of psychophysical and neuroimaging techniques (MEG and FMRI). Specific questions from our research, with links to representative papers include:

1) How does information flow through the cortical network which supports reading and visual word recognition (1, 2, 3)?

2) What is the role of early Broca’s area activity during visual word recognition (4)?

3) To what extent does individual variation in visual processing influence visual word recognition (5, 6)?

4) Do people with developmental dyslexia process visual information differently from normally reading controls (7, 8)?

  • Wellcome Trust
  • Royal Society
  • Neuro BIRCH I, II & III awards (European initiative)
  • Lord Dowding Fund for Humane Research


In the first instance reading normally relies on intricate sensory processes involving the eyes, the complexity of which is not always appreciated and so we have prepared three animations to illustrate this:

[gaze 6.4Mb] In the first sequence, the red dot represents the gaze of an adult male reader as it moves over the text. Note the rapidly alternating pattern of saccades and fixations.

[retina 3.1Mb] The second sequence shows an image of the text projected onto the retina. The text moves in relation to the fovea (centre of the animation) as a result of the eye-movements in the above.

[inf 5.4Mb] The third sequence is an attempt to represent the information available to perception. The retinal image in above is differentially sampled (high acuity fovea low acuity periphery). In addition the effect of saccadic suppression is simulated (image contrast reduces in proportion to saccadic speed).

[senses 3.2Mb] To appreciate the complexity involved in processing sensory information, we have prepared another 3D animation of the spatial segregation of the senses in the brain.

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