Probing hemispheric processes in an on-line reading task.Brain Lang. 2002 Feb; 80(2):130-41.BL
Coney (1998) used a priming procedure to obtain evidence that the left and right hemispheres contributed equally to lexical processing of concrete nouns in a continuous reading task. In that study, however, there was no direct validation of the involvement of the right hemisphere in the task, and the possibility of left hemisphere processing of left visual field target stimuli could not be ruled out. The present study was designed to obtain validating evidence by using abstract and concrete noun primes in a similar reading task on the assumption that if the right hemisphere was contributing to the task there would be demonstrable differences between the visual fields in processing targets primed by abstract nouns. The results supported this expectation. While concrete targets projected to each visual field were primed by concrete nouns, there was significant priming by abstract nouns only in respect of targets presented to the right visual field. It is argued that this finding supports the involvement of the right hemisphere in continuous reading and further delimits the scope of its contribution to this process. Somewhat unexpectedly, the results also revealed that absolute response times were faster to left visual field targets when they were preceded by abstract nouns, even when there was no semantic relationship between the two words. It was suggested that this effect derives from the inability of the right hemisphere to process abstract nouns in that the failure of abstract nouns to engage lexical processing mechanisms leaves the right hemisphere relatively unencumbered when required to process a subsequent target.