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1.  Cerebral Blood Flow and fMRI BOLD Auditory Language Activation in Temporal Lobe Epilepsy 
Epilepsia  2012;53(4):631-638.
BOLD fMRI, an important research and clinical tool, depends on relatively greater transient increases in (cerebral blood flow) rCBF than CMRO2 during neural activity. We investigated whether reduced resting rCBF in patients with TLE affects BOLD signal during fMRI language mapping.
We used [15O] water PET to measure rCBF, and 3T EPI BOLD fMRI with an auditory description decision task in 33 patients with temporal lobe epilepsy (16 men; age 33.6±10.6 years; epilepsy onset 14.8±10.6 years; mean duration 18.8±13.2 years; 23 left focus, 10 right focus). Anatomical regions drawn on structural MRI, based on the Wake Forest PickAtlas, included Wernicke’s area (WA), inferior frontal gyrus (IFG), middle frontal gyrus (MFG), and hippocampus (HC)]. Laterality indices (LI), and Asymmetry Indices (AI), were calculated on co-registered fMRI and PET.
Key findings
Twelve patients had mesial temporal sclerosis (7 left), two a tumor or malformation of cortical development (both left), one a right temporal cyst and 18 normal MRI (14 left). Decreasing relative left WA CBF correlated with decreased left IFG voxel activation and decreasing left IFG LI. However, CBF WA AI was not related to left WA voxel activation itself or WA LI. There was a weak positive correlation between absolute CBF and fMRI activation in left IFG, right IFG, and left WA. Patients with normal and abnormal MRI did not differ in fMRI activation or rCBF AI.
Reduced WA rCBF is associated with reduced fMRI activation in IFG but not WA itself, suggesting distributed network effects, but not impairment of underlying BOLD response. Hypoperfusion in TLE does not affect fMRI clinical value.
PMCID: PMC3319237  PMID: 22332720
PET; CBF; fMRI; TLE; language; BOLD
2.  A little more conversation – the influence of communicative context on syntactic priming in brain and behavior 
We report on an functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) syntactic priming experiment in which we measure brain activity for participants who communicate with another participant outside the scanner. We investigated whether syntactic processing during overt language production and comprehension is influenced by having a (shared) goal to communicate. Although theory suggests this is true, the nature of this influence remains unclear. Two hypotheses are tested: (i) syntactic priming effects (fMRI and behavioral) are stronger for participants in the communicative context than for participants doing the same experiment in a non-communicative context, and (ii) syntactic priming magnitude (behavioral) is correlated with the syntactic priming magnitude of the speaker’s communicative partner. Results showed that across conditions, participants were faster to produce sentences with repeated syntax, relative to novel syntax. This behavioral result converged with the fMRI data: we found repetition suppression effects in the left insula extending into left inferior frontal gyrus (BA 47/45), left middle temporal gyrus (BA 21), left inferior parietal cortex (BA 40), left precentral gyrus (BA 6), bilateral precuneus (BA 7), bilateral supplementary motor cortex (BA 32/8), and right insula (BA 47). We did not find support for the first hypothesis: having a communicative intention does not increase the magnitude of syntactic priming effects (either in the brain or in behavior) per se. We did find support for the second hypothesis: if speaker A is strongly/weakly primed by speaker B, then speaker B is primed by speaker A to a similar extent. We conclude that syntactic processing is influenced by being in a communicative context, and that the nature of this influence is bi-directional: speakers are influenced by each other.
PMCID: PMC3957420  PMID: 24672499
syntax; syntactic priming; overt production; comprehension; communication; fMRI; behavior
3.  Neural Correlates of Processing Passive Sentences 
Brain Sciences  2013;3(3):1198-1214.
Previous research has shown that comprehension of complex sentences involving wh-movement (e.g., object-relative clauses) elicits activation in the left inferior frontal gyrus (IFG) and left posterior temporal cortex. However, relatively little is known about the neural correlates of processing passive sentences, which differ from other complex sentences in terms of representation (i.e., noun phrase (NP)-movement) and processing (i.e., the time course of syntactic reanalysis). In the present study, 27 adults (14 younger and 13 older) listened to passive and active sentences and performed a sentence-picture verification task using functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI). Passive sentences, relative to active sentences, elicited greater activation in bilateral IFG and left temporo-occipital regions. Participant age did not significantly affect patterns of activation. Consistent with previous research, activation in left temporo-occipital cortex likely reflects thematic reanalysis processes, whereas, activation in the left IFG supports processing of complex syntax (i.e., NP-movement). Right IFG activation may reflect syntactic reanalysis processing demands associated with the sentence-picture verification task.
PMCID: PMC4061884  PMID: 24961525
fMRI; sentence processing; syntactic processing; thematic processing
4.  Syntactic structure building in the anterior temporal lobe during natural story listening 
Brain and Language  2010;120(2):163-173.
The neural basis of syntax is a matter of substantial debate. In particular, the inferior frontal gyrus (IFG), or Broca s area, has been prominently linked to syntactic processing, but anterior temporal lobe has been reported to be activated instead of IFG when manipulating the presence of syntactic structure. These findings are difficult to reconcile because they rely on different laboratory tasks which tap into distinct computations, and may only indirectly relate to natural sentence processing. Here we assessed neural correlates of syntactic structure building in natural language comprehension, free from artificial task demands. Subjects passively listened to Alice in Wonderland during functional magnetic resonance imaging and we correlated brain activity with a word-byword measure of the amount syntactic structure analyzed. Syntactic structure building correlated with activity in the left anterior temporal lobe, but there was no evidence for a correlation between syntactic structure building and activity in inferior frontal areas. Our results suggest that the anterior temporal lobe computes syntactic structure under natural conditions.
PMCID: PMC2947556  PMID: 20472279
Language; Neuroimaging; Syntax; aTL
5.  Task-dependent and task-independent neurovascular responses to syntactic processing⋆ 
The neural basis for syntactic processing was studied using event-related fMRI to determine the locations of BOLD signal increases in the contrast of syntactically complex sentences with center-embedded, object-extracted relative clauses and syntactically simple sentences with right-branching, subject-extracted relative clauses in a group of 15 participants in three tasks. In a sentence verification task, participants saw a target sentence in one of these two syntactic forms, followed by a probe in a simple active form, and determined whether the probe expressed a proposition in the target. In a plausibility judgment task, participants determined whether a sentence in one of these two syntactic forms was plausible or implausible. Finally, in a non-word detection task, participants determined whether a sentence in one of these two syntactic forms contained only real words or a non-word. BOLD signal associated with the syntactic contrast increased in the left posterior inferior frontal gyrus in non-word detection and in a widespread set of areas in the other two tasks. We conclude that the BOLD activity in the left posterior inferior frontal gyrus reflects syntactic processing independent of concurrent cognitive operations and the more widespread areas of activation reflect the use of strategies and the use of the products of syntactic processing to accomplish tasks.
PMCID: PMC2427191  PMID: 18387556
fMRI syntax; Task effects
6.  Left inferior frontal cortex and syntax: function, structure and behaviour in patients with left hemisphere damage 
Brain  2011;134(2):415-431.
For the past 150 years, neurobiological models of language have debated the role of key brain regions in language function. One consistently debated set of issues concern the role of the left inferior frontal gyrus in syntactic processing. Here we combine measures of functional activity, grey matter integrity and performance in patients with left hemisphere damage and healthy participants to ask whether the left inferior frontal gyrus is essential for syntactic processing. In a functional neuroimaging study, participants listened to spoken sentences that either contained a syntactically ambiguous or matched unambiguous phrase. Behavioural data on three tests of syntactic processing were subsequently collected. In controls, syntactic processing co-activated left hemisphere Brodmann areas 45/47 and posterior middle temporal gyrus. Activity in a left parietal cluster was sensitive to working memory demands in both patients and controls. Exploiting the variability in lesion location and performance in the patients, voxel-based correlational analyses showed that tissue integrity and neural activity—primarily in left Brodmann area 45 and posterior middle temporal gyrus—were correlated with preserved syntactic performance, but unlike the controls, patients were insensitive to syntactic preferences, reflecting their syntactic deficit. These results argue for the essential contribution of the left inferior frontal gyrus in syntactic analysis and highlight the functional relationship between left Brodmann area 45 and the left posterior middle temporal gyrus, suggesting that when this relationship breaks down, through damage to either region or to the connections between them, syntactic processing is impaired. On this view, the left inferior frontal gyrus may not itself be specialized for syntactic processing, but plays an essential role in the neural network that carries out syntactic computations.
PMCID: PMC3030769  PMID: 21278407
aphasia; Broca’s area; syntax; language networks; stroke
7.  Left Inferior Frontal Activations Depending on the Canonicity Determined by the Argument Structures of Ditransitive Sentences: An MEG Study 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(5):e37192.
To elucidate the relationships between syntactic and semantic processes, one interesting question is how syntactic structures are constructed by the argument structure of a verb, where each argument corresponds to a semantic role of each noun phrase (NP). Here we examined the effects of possessivity [sentences with or without a possessor] and canonicity [canonical or noncanonical word orders] using Japanese ditransitive sentences. During a syntactic decision task, the syntactic structure of each sentence would be constructed in an incremental manner based on the predicted argument structure of the ditransitive verb in a verb-final construction. Using magnetoencephalography, we found a significant canonicity effect on the current density in the left inferior frontal gyrus (IFG) at 530–550 ms after the verb onset. This effect was selective to canonical sentences, and significant even when the precedent NP was physically identical. We suggest that the predictive effects associated with syntactic processing became larger for canonical sentences, where the NPs and verb were merged with a minimum structural distance, leading to the left IFG activations. For monotransitive and intransitive verbs, in which structural computation of the sentences was simpler than that of ditransitive sentences, we observed a significant effect selective to noncanonical sentences in the temporoparietal regions during 480–670 ms. This effect probably reflects difficulty in semantic processing of noncanonical sentences. These results demonstrate that the left IFG plays a predictive role in syntactic processing, which depends on the canonicity determined by argument structures, whereas other temporoparietal regions would subserve more semantic aspects of sentence processing.
PMCID: PMC3358340  PMID: 22629366
8.  Articulation-based sound perception in verbal repetition: a functional NIRS study 
Verbal repetition is a fundamental language capacity where listening and speaking are inextricably coupled with each other. We have recently reported that the left inferior frontal gyrus (IFG) harbors articulation-based codes, as evidenced by activation during repetition of meaningless speech sounds, i.e., pseudowords. In this study, we aimed at confirming this finding and further investigating the possibility that sound perception as well as articulation is subserved by neural circuits in this region. Using functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS), we monitored changes of hemoglobin (Hb) concentration at IFG bilaterally, while subjects verbally repeated pseudowords and words. The results revealed that the proportion of oxygenated hemoglobin (O2Hb) over total Hb was significantly higher at the left IFG during repetition of pseudowords than that of words, replicating the observation by functional MRI and indicating that the region processes articulatory codes for verbal repetition. More importantly for this study, hemodynamic modulations were observed at both IFG during passive listening without repetition to various sounds, including natural environmental sounds, animal vocalizations, and human non-speech sounds. Furthermore, the O2Hb concentration increased at the left IFG but decreased at the right IFG for both speech and non-speech sounds. These findings suggest that both speech and non-speech sounds may be processed and maintained by a neural mechanism for sensorimotor integration using articulatory codes at the left IFG.
PMCID: PMC3763229  PMID: 24046741
verbal repetition; inferior frontal gyrus; articulation-based codes; sound perception; functional near-infrared spectroscopy; hemoglobin concentration; sensorimotor integration
9.  Aberrant network integrity of the inferior frontal cortex in women with anorexia nervosa 
NeuroImage : Clinical  2014;4:615-622.
Neuroimaging studies investigating the neural profile of anorexia nervosa (AN) have revealed a predominant imbalance between the reward and inhibition systems of the brain, which are also hallmark characteristics of the disorder. However, little is known whether these changes can also be determined independent of task condition, using resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging, in currently ill AN patients.
Therefore the aim of our study was to investigate resting-state connectivity in AN patients (n = 12) compared to healthy athlete (n = 12) and non-athlete (n = 14) controls. For this purpose, we used degree centrality to investigate functional connectivity of the whole-brain network and then Granger causality to analyze effective connectivity (EC), to understand directional aspects of potential alterations.
We were able to show that the bilateral inferior frontal gyrus (IFG) is a region of special functional importance within the whole-brain network, in AN patients, revealing reduced functional connectivity compared to both healthy control groups. Furthermore, we found decreased EC from the right IFG to the midcingulum and increased EC from the bilateral orbitofrontal gyrus to the right IFG. For the left IFG, we only observed increased EC from the bilateral insula to the left IFG.
These results suggest that AN patients have reduced connectivity within the cognitive control system of the brain and increased connectivity within regions important for salience processing. Due to its fundamental role in inhibitory behavior, including motor response, altered integrity of the inferior frontal cortex could contribute to hyperactivity in AN.
•We evaluate resting-state functional (FC) and effective (EC) connectivity.•We compare anorexia nervosa (AN) patients with healthy controls.•AN patients show reduced FC in the inferior frontal gyrus (IFG).•AN patients show reduced EC from the IFG and increased EC to the IFG.•Altered FC patterns correlate with physical activity.
PMCID: PMC4053633  PMID: 24936412
Anorexia nervosa; Functional connectivity; Effective connectivity; Resting-state fMRI
10.  Shifted Inferior Frontal Laterality in Women with Major Depressive Disorder is Related to Emotion Processing Deficits 
Psychological medicine  2013;43(7):1433-1445.
Facial emotion perception (FEP) is a critical human skill for successful social interaction, and a substantial body of literature suggests that explicit FEP is disrupted in Major Depressive Disorder (MDD). Prior research suggests that weakness in FEP may be an important phenomenon underlying patterns of emotion processing challenges in MDD and the disproportionate frequency of MDD in women.
Women with (n = 24) and without (n = 22) MDD, equivalent in age and education, completed a FEP task during fMRI.
The MDD group exhibited greater extents of frontal, parietal, and subcortical activation compared to the control group during FEP. Activation in inferior frontal gyrus (IFG) appeared shifted from a left > right pattern observed in healthy women to a bilateral pattern in MDD women. The ratio of left to right suprathreshold IFG voxels in healthy controls was nearly 3:1, whereas in the MDD group, there was a greater percent of suprathreshold IFG voxels bilaterally, with no leftward bias. In MDD, relatively greater activation in right IFG compared to left IFG (ratio score) was present and predicted FEP accuracy (r = .56, p < .004), with an inverse relationship observed between FEP and subgenual cingulate activation (r = −.46, p = .02).
This study links, for the first time, disrupted IFG activation laterality and increased subgenual cingulate activation with deficient FEP in women with MDD, providing an avenue for imaging-to-assessment translational applications in MDD.
PMCID: PMC4380502  PMID: 23298715
emotion; faces; depression; neuroimaging; laterality; women; identification
11.  Subliminal enhancement of predictive effects during syntactic processing in the left inferior frontal gyrus: an MEG study 
Predictive syntactic processing plays an essential role in language comprehension. In our previous study using Japanese object-verb (OV) sentences, we showed that the left inferior frontal gyrus (IFG) responses to a verb increased at 120–140 ms after the verb onset, indicating predictive effects caused by a preceding object. To further elucidate the automaticity of the predictive effects in the present magnetoencephalography study, we examined whether a subliminally presented verb (“subliminal verb”) enhanced the predictive effects on the sentence-final verb (“target verb”) unconsciously, i.e., without awareness. By presenting a subliminal verb after the object, enhanced predictive effects on the target verb would be detected in the OV sentences when the transitivity of the target verb matched with that of the subliminal verb (“congruent condition”), because the subliminal verb just after the object could determine the grammaticality of the sentence. For the OV sentences under the congruent condition, we observed significantly increased left IFG responses at 140–160 ms after the target verb onset. In contrast, responses in the precuneus and midcingulate cortex (MCC) were significantly reduced for the OV sentences under the congruent condition at 110–140 and 280–300 ms, respectively. By using partial Granger causality analyses for the OV sentences under the congruent condition, we revealed a bidirectional interaction between the left IFG and MCC at 60–160 ms, as well as a significant influence from the MCC to the precuneus. These results indicate that a top-down influence from the left IFG to the MCC, and then to the precuneus, is critical in syntactic decisions, whereas the MCC shares its task-set information with the left IFG to achieve automatic and predictive processes of syntax.
PMCID: PMC4217366  PMID: 25404899
MEG; sentence processing; syntax; frontal cortex; prediction; consciousness
12.  Musical Expertise Modulates Early Processing of Syntactic Violations in Language 
Syntactic violations in speech and music have been shown to elicit an anterior negativity (AN) as early as 100 ms after violation onset and a posterior positivity that peaks at roughly 600 ms (P600/LPC). The language AN is typically reported as left-lateralized (LAN), whereas the music AN is typically reported as right-lateralized (RAN). However, several lines of evidence suggest syntactic processing of language and music rely on overlapping neural systems. The current study tested the hypothesis that syntactic processing of speech and music share neural resources by examining whether musical proficiency modulates ERP indices of linguistic syntactic processing. ERPs were measured in response to syntactic violations in sentences and chord progressions in musicians and non-musicians. Violations in speech were insertion errors in normal and semantically impoverished English sentences. Violations in music were out-of-key chord substitutions from distantly and closely related keys. Phrase-structure violations elicited an AN and P600 in both groups. Harmonic violations elicited an LPC in both groups, blatant harmonic violations also elicited a RAN in musicians only. Cross-domain effects of musical proficiency were similar to previously reported within-domain effects of linguistic proficiency on the distribution of the language AN; syntactic violations in normal English sentences elicited a LAN in musicians and a bilateral AN in non-musicians. The late positivities elicited by violations differed in latency and distribution between domains. These results suggest that initial processing of syntactic violations in language and music relies on shared neural resources in the general population, and that musical expertise results in more specialized cortical organization of syntactic processing in both domains.
PMCID: PMC3542524  PMID: 23335905
expertise; syntax; music; language; sentence processing; ERAN; LAN; P600
13.  Semantic Processing and Thought Disorder in Childhood-Onset Schizophrenia: Insights from fMRI 
Journal of neurolinguistics  2010;23(3):204-222.
Impairments in language processing and thought disorder are core symptoms of schizophrenia. Here we used fMRI to investigate functional abnormalities in the neural networks subserving sentence-level language processing in childhood-onset schizophrenia (COS). Fourteen children with COS (mean age: 13.34; IQ: 95) and 14 healthy controls (HC; mean age: 12.37; IQ: 104) underwent fMRI while performing a semantic judgment task previously shown to differentially engage semantic and syntactic processes. We report four main results. First, different patterns of functional specialization for semantic and syntactic processing were observed within each group, despite similar level of task performance. Second, after regressing out IQ, significant between-group differences were observed in the neural correlates of semantic and, to a lesser extent, syntactic processing, with HC children showing overall greater activity than COS children. Third, while these group differences were not related to effects of medications, a significant negative correlation was observed in the COS group between neuroleptic dosage and activity in the left inferior frontal gyrus for the semantic condition. Finally, COS children's level of thought disorder was significantly correlated with task-related activity in language-relevant networks. Taken together, these findings suggest that children with COS exhibit aberrant patterns of neural activity during semantic, and to a lesser extent syntactic, processing and that these functional abnormalities in language-relevant networks are significantly related to severity of thought disorder.
PMCID: PMC3229826  PMID: 22147958
14.  Contributions to singing ability by the posterior portion of the superior temporal gyrus of the non-language-dominant hemisphere: First evidence from subdural cortical stimulation, Wada testing, and fMRI 
Although the substrates that mediate singing abilities in the human brain are not well understood, invasive brain mapping techniques used for clinical decision making such as intracranial electrocortical testing and Wada testing offer a rare opportunity to examine music-related function in a select group of subjects, affording exceptional spatial and temporal specificity.
We studied eight patients with medically refractory epilepsy undergoing indwelling subdural electrode seizure focus localization. All patients underwent Wada testing for language lateralization. Functional assessment of language and music tasks was done by electrode grid cortical stimulation. One patient was also tested non-invasively with functional MRI. Functional organization of singing ability compared to language ability was determined based on four regions-ofinterest: left and right inferior frontal gyrus (IFG), and left and right posterior superior temporal gyrus (pSTG).
In some subjects, electrical stimulation of dominant pSTG can interfere with speech and not singing, whereas stimulation of non-dominant pSTG area can interfere with singing and not speech. Stimulation of the dominant IFG tends to interfere with both musical and language expression, while non-dominant IFG stimulation was often observed to cause no interference with either task; and finally, that stimulation of areas adjacent to but not within non-dominant pSTG typically does not affect either ability. FMRI mappings of one subject revealed similar music/language dissociation with respect to activation asymmetry within the regions-of-interest.
Despite inherent limitations with respect to strictly research objectives, invasive clinical techniques offer a rare opportunity to probe musical and language cognitive processes of the brain in a select group of patients.
PMCID: PMC2821975  PMID: 19570530
singing laterality; cortical stimulation; fMRI; Wada test; music ability
15.  Does Co-Morbid Obsessive–Compulsive Disorder Modify the Abnormal Language Processing in Schizophrenia Patients? An fMRI Study 
Background: Impaired language processing is one of the most replicated findings in functional brain studies of schizophrenia (SCH). This is demonstrated by reduced activations in left prefrontal language areas (i.e., BA44/45, the inferior frontal gyrus, IFG) presented as decreased language lateralization. This finding was documented both in chronic as well as in first-episode SCH patients, arguing for a neurobiological marker for SCH. In a previous study, we demonstrated the specificity of this finding to SCH patients when compared to obsessive–compulsive disorder (OCD) patients in whom language processing was similar to healthy controls. Since a sizable proportion of SCH patients also meet DSM-IV criteria for OCD, we further sought to elucidate whether OCD attenuates abnormal prefrontal language lateralization in this unique group of schizo-obsessive patients compared to their non-OCD-SCH counterparts.
Methods: We used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to investigate regional activation and language lateralization in the left and right IFG and inter-hemispheric functional connectivity (FC) during a language task of auditory verb generation in 14 SCH patients with OCD, compared to 17 SCH patients without OCD, 13 OCD patients and 14 healthy controls.
Results: No between-group differences were found in the behavioral measurements of word generation. However, while OCD patients were indistinguishable from healthy volunteers, a similarly reduced lateralization in the IFG and diminished inter-hemispheric FC was noted in the two SCH groups with and without OCD.
Conclusion: The co-occurrence of OCD in SCH does not attenuate abnormal processing of language as reflected by regional IFG activity and FC. These results further support the notion that these language processing abnormalities are characteristic of SCH and that SCH–OCD combined psychopathology is more akin to SCH than to OCD.
PMCID: PMC4114205  PMID: 25120459
language; fMRI; inferior frontal gyrus; schizo-obsessive; schizophrenia; OCD
16.  The representation of the verb's argument structure as disclosed by fMRI 
BMC Neuroscience  2009;10:3.
In the composition of an event the verb's argument structure defines the number of participants and their relationships. Previous studies indicated distinct brain responses depending on how many obligatory arguments a verb takes. The present functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) study served to verify the neural structures involved in the processing of German verbs with one (e.g. "snore") or three (e.g. "gives") argument structure. Within a silent reading design, verbs were presented either in isolation or with a minimal syntactic context ("snore" vs. "Peter snores").
Reading of isolated one-argument verbs ("snore") produced stronger BOLD responses than three-argument verbs ("gives") in the inferior temporal fusiform gyrus (BA 37) of the left hemisphere, validating previous magnetoencephalographic findings. When presented in context one-argument verbs ("Peter snores") induced more pronounced activity in the inferior frontal gyrus (IFG) of the left hemisphere than three-argument verbs ("Peter gives").
In line with previous studies our results corroborate the left temporal lobe as site of representation and the IFG as site of processing of verbs' argument structure.
PMCID: PMC2632636  PMID: 19146655
17.  Resting State Functional Connectivity in Patients with Chronic Hallucinations 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(9):e43516.
Auditory verbal hallucinations (AVH) are not only among the most common but also one of the most distressing symptoms of schizophrenia. Despite elaborate research, the underlying brain mechanisms are as yet elusive. Functional MRI studies have associated the experience of AVH with activation of bilateral language-related areas, in particular the right inferior frontal gyrus (rIFG) and the left superior temporal gyrus (lSTG). While these findings helped to understand the neural underpinnings of hearing voices, they provide little information about possible brain mechanisms that predispose a person to experience AVH, i.e. the traits to hallucinate. In this study, we compared resting state connectivity between 49 psychotic patients with chronic AVH and 49 matched controls using the rIFG and the lSTG as seed regions, to identify functional brain systems underlying the predisposition to hallucinate. The right parahippocampal gyrus showed increased connectivity with the rIFG in patients as compared to controls. Reduced connectivity with the rIFG in patients was found for the right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. Reduced connectivity with the lSTG in patients was identified in the left frontal operculum as well as the parietal opercular area. Connectivity between the lSTG and the left hippocampus was also reduced in patients and showed a negative correlation with the severity of hallucinations. Concluding, we found aberrant connectivity between the seed regions and medial temporal lobe structures which have a prominent role in memory retrieval. Moreover, we found decreased connectivity between language-related areas, indicating aberrant integration in this system potentially including corollary discharge mechanisms.
PMCID: PMC3435327  PMID: 22970130
18.  Cortical reorganization following anterior temporal lobectomy in patients with temporal lobe epilepsy 
Neurology  2009;73(7):518-525.
Functional MRI was used to study the impact of temporal lobe epilepsy (TLE) and anterior temporal lobectomy (ATL) on the cortical language network in patients with medically refractory TLE.
Nineteen patients with medically refractory TLE and 11 healthy control subjects were enrolled in this study. Ten patients underwent left ATL (mean age 35.2 ± 3.8 years), and 9 underwent right ATL (mean age 35.9 ± 2.6 years). The subjects silently generated verbs in response to a series of visually presented nouns inside the scanner. Correlation analysis was performed between the subjects' performance on the clinical language tests and their neural response in the a priori cortical regions.
Preoperative data revealed that the patients with TLE showed increased neural activity in the right inferior frontal gyri (IFG) and middle frontal gyri (MFG). The right TLE patients demonstrated strong correlation between their language performance and the level of cortical activation within the typical language areas. However, such a correlation was absent in the left TLE patients. After the ATL surgery, the left TLE patients showed reduced activation in the left MFG and right IFG, whereas no difference was observed in the right TLE patients. In the right TLE patients, the correlation between language performance and neural response shifted from the typical language areas to the anterior cingulate cortex.
This study demonstrates that the cortical language network is affected differently by the left and right temporal lobe epilepsy and is reorganized after anterior temporal lobectomy.
= anterior cingulate cortex;
= anterior temporal lobectomy;
= Boston Diagnostic Aphasia Examination;
= Boston Naming Test;
= blood oxygenation level–dependent;
= functional MRI;
= field of view;
= inferior frontal gyrus;
= London Health Sciences Centre;
= Language Quotient;
= middle frontal gyrus;
= Montreal Neurological Institute;
= region of interest;
= superior frontal gyrus;
= echo time;
= temporal lobe epilepsy;
= repetition time;
= Western Aphasia Battery.
PMCID: PMC2730795  PMID: 19687453
19.  Neural Aspects of Sentence Comprehension: Syntactic Complexity, Reversibility, and Reanalysis 
Cerebral Cortex (New York, NY)  2009;20(8):1853-1864.
Broca's area is preferentially activated by reversible sentences with complex syntax, but various linguistic factors may be responsible for this finding, including syntactic movement, working-memory demands, and post hoc reanalysis. To distinguish between these, we tested the interaction of syntactic complexity and semantic reversibility in a functional magnetic resonance imaging study of sentence–picture matching. During auditory comprehension, semantic reversibility induced selective activation throughout the left perisylvian language network. In contrast, syntactic complexity (object-embedded vs. subject-embedded relative clauses) within reversible sentences engaged only the left inferior frontal gyrus (LIFG) and left precentral gyrus. Within irreversible sentences, only the LIFG was sensitive to syntactic complexity, confirming a unique role for this region in syntactic processing. Nonetheless, larger effects of reversibility itself occurred in the same regions, suggesting that full syntactic parsing may be a nonautomatic process applied as needed. Complex reversible sentences also induced enhanced signals in LIFG and left precentral regions on subsequent picture selection, but with additional recruitment of the right hemisphere homolog area (right inferior frontal gyrus) as well, suggesting that post hoc reanalysis of sentence structure, compared with initial comprehension, engages an overlapping but larger network of brain regions. These dissociable effects may offer a basis for studying the reorganization of receptive language function after brain damage.
PMCID: PMC2901020  PMID: 19920058
Broca's area; fMRI; language; semantic; syntax
20.  Shared Syntax in Language Production and Language Comprehension—An fMRI Study 
Cerebral Cortex (New York, NY)  2011;22(7):1662-1670.
During speaking and listening syntactic processing is a crucial step. It involves specifying syntactic relations between words in a sentence. If the production and comprehension modality share the neuronal substrate for syntactic processing then processing syntax in one modality should lead to adaptation effects in the other modality. In the present functional magnetic resonance imaging experiment, participants either overtly produced or heard descriptions of pictures. We looked for brain regions showing adaptation effects to the repetition of syntactic structures. In order to ensure that not just the same brain regions but also the same neuronal populations within these regions are involved in syntactic processing in speaking and listening, we compared syntactic adaptation effects within processing modalities (syntactic production-to-production and comprehension-to-comprehension priming) with syntactic adaptation effects between processing modalities (syntactic comprehension-to-production and production-to-comprehension priming). We found syntactic adaptation effects in left inferior frontal gyrus (Brodmann's area [BA] 45), left middle temporal gyrus (BA 21), and bilateral supplementary motor area (BA 6) which were equally strong within and between processing modalities. Thus, syntactic repetition facilitates syntactic processing in the brain within and across processing modalities to the same extent. We conclude that that the same neurobiological system seems to subserve syntactic processing in speaking and listening.
PMCID: PMC3377967  PMID: 21934094
fMRI adaptation; grammatical encoding and decoding; repetition suppression; syntactic or structural priming; syntax
21.  Condition-dependent functional connectivity: syntax networks in bilinguals 
This paper introduces a method to study the variation of brain functional connectivity networks with respect to experimental conditions in fMRI data. It is related to the psychophysiological interaction technique introduced by Friston et al. and extends to networks of correlation modulation (CM networks). Extended networks containing several dozens of nodes are determined in which the links correspond to consistent correlation modulation across subjects. In addition, we assess inter-subject variability and determine networks in which the condition-dependent functional interactions can be explained by a subject-dependent variable. We applied the technique to data from a study on syntactical production in bilinguals and analysed functional interactions differentially across tasks (word reading or sentence production) and across languages. We find an extended network of consistent functional interaction modulation across tasks, whereas the network comparing languages shows fewer links. Interestingly, there is evidence for a specific network in which the differences in functional interaction across subjects can be explained by differences in the subjects' syntactical proficiency. Specifically, we find that regions, including ones that have previously been shown to be involved in syntax and in language production, such as the left inferior frontal gyrus, putamen, insula, precentral gyrus, as well as the supplementary motor area, are more functionally linked during sentence production in the second, compared with the first, language in syntactically more proficient bilinguals than in syntactically less proficient ones. Our approach extends conventional activation analyses to the notion of networks, emphasizing functional interactions between regions independently of whether or not they are activated. On the one hand, it gives rise to testable hypotheses and allows an interpretation of the results in terms of the previous literature, and on the other hand, it provides a basis for studying the structure of functional interactions as a whole, and hence represents a further step towards the notion of large-scale networks in functional imaging.
PMCID: PMC1854936  PMID: 16087437
functional connectivity; psychophysiological interaction; network; fMRI; syntax; bilinguals
22.  A left cerebellar pathway mediates language in prematurely-born young adults 
NeuroImage  2012;64:371-378.
Preterm (PT) subjects are at risk for developmental delay, and task-based studies suggest that developmental disorders may be due to alterations in neural connectivity. Since emerging data imply the importance of right cerebellar function for language acquisition in typical development, we hypothesized that PT subjects would have alternate areas of cerebellar connectivity, and that these areas would be responsible for differences in cognitive outcomes between PT subjects and term controls at age 20 years.
Nineteen PT and 19 term control young adults were prospectively studied using resting-state functional MRI (fMRI) to create voxel-based contrast maps reflecting the functional connectivity of each tissue element in the grey matter through analysis of the intrinsic connectivity contrast degree (ICC-d). Left cerebellar ICC-d differences between subjects identified a region of interest that was used for subsequent seed-based connectivity analyses. Subjects underwent standardized language testing, and correlations with cognitive outcomes were assessed.
There were no differences in gender, hand preference, maternal education, age at study, or Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test (PPVT) scores. Functional connectivity (FcMRI) demonstrated increased tissue connectivity in the biventer, simple and quadrangular lobules of the L cerebellum (p<0.05) in PTs compared to term controls; seed-based analyses from these regions demonstrated alterations in connectivity from L cerebellum to both R and L inferior frontal gyri (IFG) in PTs compared to term controls. For PTs but not term controls, there were significant positive correlations between these connections and PPVT scores (R IFG: r=0.555, p=0.01; L IFG: r=0.454, p=0.05), as well as Verbal Comprehension Index (VCI) scores (R IFG: r=0.472, p=0.04).
These data suggest the presence of a left cerebellar language circuit in PT subjects at young adulthood. These findings may represent either a delay in maturation or the engagement of alternative neural pathways for language in the developing PT brain.
PMCID: PMC3508203  PMID: 22982585
Preterm; cerebellum; language systems; functional MRI; resting state intrinsic connectivity contrast degree
23.  Altered Regional Homogeneity with Short-term Simulated Microgravity and Its Relationship with Changed Performance in Mental Transformation 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(6):e64931.
In order to further the insight into the explanation of changed performance in mental transformation under microgravity, we discuss the change of performance in mental transformation and its relationship with altered regional homogeneity (ReHo) in resting-state brain by using simulated weightlessness model. Twelve male subjects with age between 24 and 31 received resting-state fMRI scan and mental transformation test both in normal condition and immediately after 72 hours −6° head down tilt (HDT). A paired sample t-test was used to test the difference of behavior performance and brain activity between these two conditions. Compare with normal condition, subjects showed a changed performance in mental transformation with short term simulated microgravity and appeared to be falling. Meanwhile, decreased ReHo were found in right inferior frontal gyrus (IFG) and left inferior parietal lobule (IPL) after 72 hours −6° HDT, while increased ReHo were found in bilateral medial frontal gyrus (MFG) and left superior frontal gyrus (SFG) (P<0.05, corrected). Particularly, there was a significant correlation between ReHo values in left IPL and velocity index of mental transformation. Our findings indicate that gravity change may disrupt the function of right IFG and left IPL in the resting-state, among of which functional change in left IPL may contribute to changed abilities of mental transformation. In addition, the enhanced activity of the bilateral MFG and decreased activity of right IFG found in the current study maybe reflect a complementation effect on inhibitory control process.
PMCID: PMC3670926  PMID: 23755162
24.  What role does the anterior temporal lobe play in sentence-level processing? Neural correlates of syntactic processing in semantic PPA 
Journal of cognitive neuroscience  2013;26(5):970-985.
Neuroimaging and neuropsychological studies have implicated the anterior temporal lobe (ATL) in sentence-level processing, with syntactic structure-building and/or combinatorial semantic processing suggested as possible roles. A potential challenge to the view that the ATL is involved in syntactic aspects of sentence processing comes from the clinical syndrome of semantic variant primary progressive aphasia (semantic PPA, also known as semantic dementia). In semantic PPA, bilateral neurodegeneration of the anterior temporal lobes is associated with profound lexical semantic deficits, yet syntax is strikingly spared. The goal of this study was to investigate the neural correlates of syntactic processing in semantic PPA, in order to determine which regions normally involved in syntactic processing are damaged in semantic PPA, and whether spared syntactic processing depends on preserved functionality of intact regions, preserved functionality of atrophic regions, or compensatory functional reorganization. We scanned 20 individuals with semantic PPA and 24 age-matched controls using structural and functional MRI. Participants performed a sentence comprehension task that emphasized syntactic processing and minimized lexical semantic demands. We found that in controls, left inferior frontal and left posterior temporal regions were modulated by syntactic processing, while anterior temporal regions were not significantly modulated. In the semantic PPA group, atrophy was most severe in the anterior temporal lobes, but extended to the posterior temporal regions involved in syntactic processing. Functional activity for syntactic processing was broadly similar in patients and controls; in particular, whole-brain analyses revealed no significant differences between patients and controls in the regions modulated by syntactic processing. The atrophic left anterior temporal lobe did show abnormal functionality in semantic PPA patients, however this took the unexpected form of a failure to deactivate. Taken together, our findings indicate that spared syntactic processing in semantic PPA depends on preserved functionality of structurally intact left frontal regions and moderately atrophic left posterior temporal regions, but no functional reorganization was apparent as a consequence of anterior temporal atrophy and dysfunction. These results suggest that the role of the anterior temporal lobe in sentence processing is less likely to relate to syntactic structure-building, and more likely to relate to higher level processes such as combinatorial semantic processing.
PMCID: PMC4006153  PMID: 24345172
25.  Bilingual and Monolingual Brains Compared: A Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging Investigation of Syntactic Processing and a Possible “Neural Signature” of Bilingualism 
Journal of cognitive neuroscience  2008;20(1):153-169.
Does the brain of a bilingual process language differently from that of a monolingual? We compared how bilinguals and monolinguals recruit classic language brain areas in response to a language task and asked whether there is a “neural signature” of bilingualism. Highly proficient and early-exposed adult Spanish-English bilinguals and English monolinguals participated. During functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), participants completed a syntactic “sentence judgment task” [Caplan, D., Alpert, N., & Waters, G. Effects of syntactic structure and propositional number on patterns of regional cerebral blood flow. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 10, 541-552, 1998]. The sentences exploited differences between Spanish and English linguistic properties, allowing us to explore similarities and differences in behavioral and neural responses between bilinguals and monolinguals, and between a bilingual's two languages. If bilinguals' neural processing differs across their two languages, then differential behavioral and neural patterns should be observed in Spanish and English. Results show that behaviorally, in English, bilinguals and monolinguals had the same speed and accuracy, yet, as predicted from the Spanish-English structural differences, bilinguals had a different pattern of performance in Spanish. fMRI analyses revealed that both monolinguals (in one language) and bilinguals (in each language) showed predicted increases in activation in classic language areas (e.g., left inferior frontal cortex, LIFC), with any neural differences between the bilingual's two languages being principled and predictable based on the morphosyntactic differences between Spanish and English. However, an important difference was that bilinguals had a significantly greater increase in the blood oxygenation level-dependent signal in the LIFC (BA 45) when processing English than the English monolinguals. The results provide insight into the decades-old question about the degree of separation of bilinguals' dual-language representation. The differential activation for bilinguals and monolinguals opens the question as to whether there may possibly be a “neural signature” of bilingualism. Differential activation may further provide a fascinating window into the language processing potential not recruited in monolingual brains and reveal the biological extent of the neural architecture underlying all human language.
PMCID: PMC2643466  PMID: 17919083

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