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An ERP investigation of vertical reading fluency in Scrabble experts

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van Hees, S., Seyffarth, S., Pexman, P. M., Cortese, F., & Protzner, A. B. (2017). An ERP investigation of vertical reading fluency in Scrabble experts. Brain Research, 1667, 1-10. 


Previous studies have found that competitive Scrabble expertise is associated with enhanced performance on visual lexical decision tasks (LDT), particularly for vertically presented stimuli. In the current study, we investigated the underlying mechanisms responsible for this vertical fluency. We examined behaviour and neural activity during LDT in 19 competitive Scrabble players and 18 matched controls. Using event related potentials (ERP), we investigated whether Scrabble expertise modulates the N170, P300, and late positive component (LPC), associated with visual-orthographic processing, working memory, and stimulus classification, respectively. Behavioural results replicated those from previous studies: Scrabble experts were significantly faster than controls to respond to vertical stimuli in LDT. ERP results showed Scrabble experts had larger P300 amplitudes in right parietal electrodes compared to controls, as well as greater differentiation in LPC amplitudes between vertical words and nonwords. These findings suggest that the mechanism underlying vertical fluency in Scrabble experts involves enhanced domain-specific working memory and stimulus classification processes. The results have implications for understanding the flexibility of the adult visual word recognition system, as well as the behavioural and neural consequences of training within this system.

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