Neural evidence for lexical parafoveal processing

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In spite of the reduced visual acuity, parafoveal information plays an important role in natural reading. However, competing models on reading disagree on whether words are previewed parafoveally at the lexical level. We find neural evidence for lexical parafoveal processing by combining a rapid invisible frequency tagging (RIFT) approach with magnetoencephalography (MEG) and eye-tracking. In a silent reading task, target words are tagged (flickered) subliminally at 60 Hz. The tagging responses measured when fixating on the pre-target word reflect parafoveal processing of the target word. We observe stronger tagging responses during pre-target fixations when followed by low compared with high lexical frequency targets. Moreover, this lexical parafoveal processing is associated with individual reading speed. Our findings suggest that reading unfolds in the fovea and parafovea simultaneously to support fluent reading.
Original languageEnglish
Article number5234
Number of pages9
JournalNature Communications
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2 Sept 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank Dr. Federica Degno and Prof. Simon Liversedge for sharing the second sentence set, Dr. Geoffrey Brookshire and Yang Cao for feedback on the manuscript. This work was supported by the following grants to O.J.: the James S. McDonnell Foundation Understanding Human Cognition Collaborative Award (grant number 220020448), Wellcome Trust Investigator Award in Science (grant number 207550), and the BBSRC grant (BB/R018723/1) as well as the Royal Society Wolfson Research Merit Award.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021, The Author(s).


  • Eye Movements/physiology
  • Female
  • Fixation, Ocular/physiology
  • Fovea Centralis/physiology
  • Humans
  • Macula Lutea/physiology
  • Male
  • Models, Neurological
  • Reading
  • Visual Cortex/physiology
  • Visual Perception/physiology
  • Young Adult


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