Cognitive processing in Chinese literate and illiterate subjects: An fMRI study

Geng Li, Raymond T.F. Cheung, Jia Hong Gao, Tatia M.C. Lee, Li Hai Tan, Peter T. Fox, Clifford R. Jack, Edward S. Yang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and positron emission tomography (PET) were used to map brain activation during language tasks. While previous studies have compared performance between alphabetic literate and illiterate subjects, there have been no such data in Chinese-speaking individuals. In this study, we used fMRI to examine the effects of education on neural activation associated with silent word recognition and silent picture-naming tasks in 24 healthy right-handed Chinese subjects (12 illiterates and 12 literates). There were 30 single Chinese characters in the silent word recognition task and 30 meaningful road-signs in the silent picture-naming task. When we compared literate and illiterate subjects, we observed education-related differences in activation patterns in the left inferior/middle frontal gyrus and both sides of the superior temporal gyrus for the silent word recognition task and in the bilateral inferior/middle frontal gyrus and left limbic cingulated gyrus for the silent picture-naming task. These results indicate that the patterns of neural activation associated with language tasks are strongly influenced by education. Education appears to have enhanced cognitive processing efficiency in language tasks.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)144-152
Number of pages9
JournalHuman Brain Mapping
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2006


  • Education
  • Neural activation
  • Silent picture-naming task
  • Silent word recognition task

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy
  • Radiological and Ultrasound Technology
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology


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