Neural Activity Associated with Visual Search for Line Drawings on AAC Displays: An Exploration of the Use of fMRI

Krista M. Wilkinson, Nancy A. Dennis, Christina E. Webb, Mari Therrien, Megan Stradtman, Jacquelyn Farmer, Raevynn Leach, Megan Warrenfeltz, Courtney Zeuner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Visual aided augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) consists of books or technologies that contain visual symbols to supplement spoken language. A common observation concerning some forms of aided AAC is that message preparation can be frustratingly slow. We explored the uses of fMRI to examine the neural correlates of visual search for line drawings on AAC displays in 18 college students under two experimental conditions. Under one condition, the location of the icons remained stable and participants were able to learn the spatial layout of the display. Under the other condition, constant shuffling of the locations of the icons prevented participants from learning the layout, impeding rapid search. Brain activation was contrasted under these conditions. Rapid search in the stable display was associated with greater activation of cortical and subcortical regions associated with memory, motor learning, and dorsal visual pathways compared to the search in the unpredictable display. Rapid search for line drawings on stable AAC displays involves not just the conceptual knowledge of the symbol meaning but also the integration of motor, memory, and visual-spatial knowledge about the display layout. Further research must study individuals who use AAC, as well as the functional effect of interventions that promote knowledge about array layout.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)310-324
Number of pages15
JournalAAC: Augmentative and Alternative Communication
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Rehabilitation
  • Speech and Hearing


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