How do students gain scientific knowledge while reading expository text? This study examines the underlying neurocognitive basis of textual knowledge structure and individual readers’ cognitive differences and reading habits, including the influence of text and reader characteristics, on outcomes of scientific text comprehension. By combining fixation-related fMRI and multiband data acquisition, the study is among the first to consider self-paced naturalistic reading inside the MRI scanner. Our results revealed the underlying neurocognitive patterns associated with information integration of different time scales during text reading, and significant individual differences due to the interaction between text characteristics (e.g., optimality of the textual knowledge structure) and reader characteristics (e.g., electronic device use habits). Individual differences impacted the amount of neural resources deployed for multitasking and information integration for constructing the underlying scientific mental models based on the text being read. Our findings have significant implications for understanding science reading in a population that is increasingly dependent on electronic devices.
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