Lecturer's Précis - Roeltgen and Heilman (1985)

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First published online 08:59 BST 1st May 2002, Copyright Derek J. Smith (Chartered Engineer). This version [2.0 - copyright] 09:00 BST 3rd July 2018.

An earlier version of this material appeared in Smith (1998; Chapter 4). It is repeated here in simplified form and supported with hyperlinks.


Roeltgen and Heilman (1985)

See firstly the supporting commentary for this material.


Roeltgen and Heilman's (1985) Model of Writing: Here is a box-and-arrow representation of the mental modules involved in spelling a heard word (a) aloud or (b) on paper. It was derived from a large number of clinical observations going back to Ogle (1867), and shows the presumed processing layout for a left hemisphere dominant right-handed adult. It sees the stimulus word (top left) as being decoded acoustically within (1) Heschl's Gyrus, and then recognised as a particular word in (3) Wernicke's Area (see Wernicke, 1874). Taken together, these two processes are therefore equivalent to Module "A" in Lichtheim's "House" Model (see Lichtheim, 1885). There are then three ways of knowing how to spell the target word.

Firstly, you can generate an associated set of auditory word engrams in situ. Thus the words "see - ay - tee" spell "cat", and would be easy to produce aloud (pathway 19-24) because they would already be phonetically encoded. Such a response would, however, need to be converted ("transcoded") into the equivalent graphemes < c >, < a >, and < t > if being handwritten on paper (pathway 7-8-9-14-27). Correct letter orientation is ensured by instructions received from the non-dominant hemisphere (pathway 16-18), and totally different motor programming would be required at (26) if the response were being typed onto a keyboard (28).

Secondly, you can activate an associated visual word image (pathway 4-5). Again this could be used to produce either a spoken answer (pathway 6-21-3-19-24), a handwritten answer (pathway 6-14-27), or a typed answer (pathway 6-14-28).

Thirdly, you can activate associated word meanings from the Semantic Area (pathway 10-11). This is the equivalent of Lichtheim's Module "B", and allows a contextually appropriate output to be chosen (which would be the only way of doing the job if the stimulus word were a homophone like "they're" / "their" / "there"). Again this could be used to produce a spoken answer (pathway 12-24), a handwritten answer (pathway 13-5-6-14-27), or a typewritten answer (pathway 13-5-6-14-28).

If this diagram fails to load automatically, it may be accessed separately at



Redrawn from Roeltgen and Heilman (1985:210). "Component" numbering (1) - (21) from the original, (22) - (28) added. Brodmann's numbering and the typing option also added. This version Copyright © 2002, Derek J. Smith.




Ogle, J.W. (1869). Aphasia and agraphia. Report of the MRC of St Georges Hospital, London, 2:83-122.

Roeltgen, D.P. & Heilman, K.M. (1985). Review of agraphia and a proposal for an anatomically based neuropsychological model of writing. Applied Psycholinguistics, 6:205-230.

Smith, D.J. (1998). Applied Cognitive Psychology. Cardiff: UWIC. [ISBN: 1900666103]