Inter- and intra- hemispheric interactions in reading ambiguous words

Nofar Mizrachi, Zohar Eviatar, Orna Peleg, Tali Bitan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The present study investigated how the brain processes words with multiple meanings. Specifically, we examined the inter- and intra-hemispheric connectivity of unambiguous words compared to two types of ambiguous words: homophonic homographs, which have multiple meanings mapped to a single phonological representation and orthography, and heterophonic homographs, which have multiple meanings mapped to different phonological representations but the same orthography. Using a semantic relatedness judgment task and effective connectivity analysis via Dynamic Causal Modeling (DCM) on previously published fMRI data (Bitan et al., 2017), we found that the two hemispheres compete in orthographic processing during the reading of unambiguous words. For heterophonic homographs, we observed increased connectivity within the left hemisphere, highlighting the importance of top-down re-activation of orthographic representations by phonological ones for considering alternative meanings. For homophonic homographs, we found a flow of information from the left to the right hemisphere and from the right to the left, indicating that the brain retrieves different meanings using different pathways. These findings provide novel insights into the complex mechanisms involved in language processing and shed light on the different communication patterns within and between hemispheres during the processing of ambiguous and unambiguous words.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)257-271
Number of pages15
StatePublished - Feb 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 Elsevier Ltd


  • Ambiguous words
  • DCM
  • Effective connectivity
  • PEB
  • Reading

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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