The segregation between cortical pathways for the identification and localization of objects is thought of as a general organizational principle in the brain. Yet, little is known about the unimodal versus multimodal nature of these processing streams. The main purpose of the present study was to test whether the auditory and tactile dual pathways converged into specialized multisensory brain areas. We used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to compare directly in the same subjects the brain activation related to localization and identification of comparable auditory and vibrotactile stimuli. Results indicate that the right inferior frontal gyrus (IFG) and both left and right insula were more activated during identification conditions than during localization in both touch and audition. The reverse dissociation was found for the left and right inferior parietal lobules (IPL), the left superior parietal lobule (SPL) and the right precuneus-SPL, which were all more activated during localization conditions in the two modalities. We propose that specialized areas in the right IFG and the left and right insula are multisensory operators for the processing of stimulus identity whereas parts of the left and right IPL and SPL are specialized for the processing of spatial attributes independently of sensory modality.
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.
Language; Neuroimaging; Syntax; aTL
There is evidence that the right hemisphere is involved in processing self-related stimuli. Previous brain imaging research has found a network of right-lateralized brain regions that preferentially respond to seeing one's own face rather than a familiar other. Given that the self is an abstract multimodal concept, we tested whether these brain regions would also discriminate the sound of one's own voice compared to a friend's voice. Participants were shown photographs of their own face and friend's face, and also listened to recordings of their own voice and a friend's voice during fMRI scanning. Consistent with previous studies, seeing one's own face activated regions in the inferior frontal gyrus (IFG), inferior parietal lobe and inferior occipital cortex in the right hemisphere. In addition, listening to one's voice also showed increased activity in the right IFG. These data suggest that the right IFG is concerned with processing self-related stimuli across multiple sensory modalities and that it may contribute to an abstract self-representation.
self; self-recognition; fMRI; face; voice
The current study examined developmental changes in activation and effective connectivity among brain regions during a phonological processing task, using fMRI. Participants, ages 9–15, were scanned while performing rhyming judgments on pairs of visually presented words. The orthographic and phonological similarity between words in the pair was independently manipulated, so that rhyming judgment could not be based on orthographic similarity. Our results show a developmental increase in activation in the dorsal part of left inferior frontal gyrus (IFG), accompanied by a decrease in the dorsal part of left superior temporal gyrus (STG). The coupling of dorsal IFG with other selected brain regions involved in the phonological decision increased with age, while the coupling of STG decreased with age. These results suggest that during development there is a shift from reliance on sensory auditory representations to reliance on phonological segmentation and covert articulation for performing rhyming judgment on visually presented words. In addition, we found a developmental increase in activation in left posterior parietal cortex that was not accompanied by a change in its connectivity with the other regions. These results suggest that maturational changes within a cortical region are not necessarily accompanied by an increase in its interactions with other regions and its contribution to the task. Our results are consistent with the idea that there is reduced reliance on primary sensory processes as task-relevant processes mature and become more efficient during development.
The meaning of a word usually depends on the context in which it occurs. This study investigated the neural mechanisms involved in computing word meanings that change as a function of syntactic context. Current semantic processing theories suggest that word meanings are retrieved from diverse cortical regions storing sensory-motor and other types of semantic information, and are further integrated with context in left inferior frontal gyrus (LIFG). Our fMRI data indicate that brain activity in an area sensitive to motion and action semantics – the posterior middle temporal gyrus (PMTG) – is modulated by a word's syntactic context. Ambiguous words such as bowl were presented in minimal disambiguating contexts indicating object (the bowl) or action (to bowl) meanings, and were compared to low-ambiguity controls. Ambiguous words elicited more activity than low-ambiguity controls in LIFG and various meaning-related areas such as PMTG. Critically, ambiguous words also elicited more activity in to-contexts than the-contexts in PMTG and LIFG, suggesting that contextual integration strengthened the action meaning in both areas. The pattern of results suggests that the activation of lexical information in PMTG was sensitive to contextual disambiguating information and that processing context-dependent meanings may involve interactions between frontal and posterior areas.
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.
aphasia; Broca’s area; syntax; language networks; stroke
Developmental differences in brain activation of 9- to 15-year-old children were examined during an auditory rhyme decision task to spoken words using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). As a group, children showed activation in left superior/middle temporal gyri (BA 22, 21), right middle temporal gyrus (BA 21), dorsal (BA 45, pars opercularis) and ventral (BA 46, pars triangularis) aspects of left inferior frontal gyrus, and left fusiform gyrus (BA 37). There was a developmental increase in activation in left middle temporal gyrus (BA 22) across all lexical conditions, suggesting that automatic semantic processing increases with age regardless of task demands. Activation in left dorsal inferior frontal gyrus also showed developmental increases for the conflicting (e.g. PINT-MINT) compared to the non-conflicting (e.g. PRESS-LIST) non-rhyming conditions, indicating that this area becomes increasingly involved in strategic phonological processing in the face of conflicting orthographic and phonological representations. Left inferior temporal/fusiform gyrus (BA 37) activation was also greater for the conflicting (e.g. PINT-MINT) condition, and a developmental increase was found in the positive relationship between individuals' reaction time and activation in left lingual/fusiform gyrus (BA 18) in this condition, indicating an age-related increase in the association between longer reaction times and greater visual-orthographic processing in this conflicting condition. These results suggest that orthographic processing is automatically engaged by children in a task that does not require access to orthographic information for correct performance, especially when orthographic and phonological representations conflict, and especially for longer response latencies in older children.
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.
Listening and reading comprehension of paragraph-length material are considered higher-order language skills fundamental to social and academic functioning. Using ecologically relevant language stimuli that were matched for difficulty according to developmental level, we analyze the effects of task, age, neuropsychological skills, and post-task performance on fMRI activation and hemispheric laterality. Areas of supramodal language processing are identified, with the most robust region being left-lateralized activation along the superior temporal sulcus. Functionally, this conjunction has a role in semantic and syntactic processing, leading us to refer to this conjunction as “comprehension cortex.” Different from adults, supramodal areas for children include less extensive inferior frontal gyrus but more extensive right cerebellum and right temporal pole. Broader neuroanatomical pathways are recruited for reading, reflecting the more active processing and larger set of cognitive demands needed for reading compared to listening to stories. ROI analyses reveal that reading is a less lateralized language task than listening in inferior frontal and superior temporal areas, which likely reflects the difficulty of the task as children in this study are still developing their reading skills. For listening to stories, temporal activation is stable by age four with no correlations with age, neuropsychological skills or post-task performance. In contrast, frontal activation during listening to stories occurs more often in older children, and frontal activation is positively correlated with better performance on comprehension questions, suggesting that the activation of frontal networks may reflect greater integration and depth of story processing.
Frontal and temporal language areas involved in syntactic processing are connected by several dorsal and ventral tracts, but the functional roles of the different tracts are not well understood. To identify which white matter tract(s) are important for syntactic processing, we examined the relationship between white matter damage and syntactic deficits in patients with primary progressive aphasia, using multimodal neuroimaging and neurolinguistic assessment. Diffusion tensor imaging showed that microstructural damage to left hemisphere dorsal tracts—the superior longitudinal fasciculus including its arcuate component—was strongly associated with deficits in comprehension and production of syntax. Damage to these dorsal tracts predicted syntactic deficits after gray matter atrophy was taken into account, and fMRI confirmed that these tracts connect regions modulated by syntactic processing. In contrast, damage to ventral tracts—the extreme capsule fiber system or the uncinate fasciculus—was not associated with syntactic deficits. Our findings show that syntactic processing depends primarily on dorsal language tracts.
Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), this study directly examined an issue that bridges the potential language processing and multi-modal views of the role of Broca’s area: the effects of task-demands in language comprehension studies. We presented syntactically simple and complex sentences for auditory comprehension under three different (differentially complex) task-demand conditions: passive listening, probe verification, and theme judgment. Contrary to many language imaging findings, we found that both simple and complex syntactic structures activated left inferior frontal cortex (L-IFC). Critically, we found activation in these frontal regions increased together with increased task-demands. Specifically, tasks that required greater manipulation and comparison of linguistic material recruited L-IFC more strongly; independent of syntactic structure complexity. We argue that much of the presumed syntactic effects previously found in sentence imaging studies of L-IFC may, among other things, reflect the tasks employed in these studies and that L-IFC is a region underlying mnemonic and other integrative functions, on which much language processing may rely.
Broca’s area; sentence complexity; task demands; fMRI
It has been suggested that the right inferior frontal gyrus (IFG) plays a critical role in manual response inhibition, although neuroimaging studies of healthy adults have also reported widespread activations in other cortical regions during a variety of response inhibition tasks. We conducted a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) experiment to examine whether the activation of the IFG is dependent on the type of visuo-motor associations during response inhibition by varying the feature of the stop signal (color vs. orientation) in the stop-signal task. Results from 12 subjects showed that the bilateral ventral posterior IFG, anterior insula, inferior frontal junction (IFJ), middle temporal gyrus (MTG) and fusiform gyrus (FG) are active during response inhibition cued by both color and orientation stop signals. While only the MTG showed differential activity to the two stop signals, both MTG and FG showed significantly stronger activity during successful than unsuccessful stopping of unwanted responses cued by orientation and color, respectively. Our findings suggest that the right ventral posterior IFG may play a more general role in response inhibition regardless of the feature of the visual signal, while successful inhibition may depend on efficient processing of the signal.
ventrolateral prefrontal cortex; stop-signal task; cognitive control; insula cortex; visually-guided response control
One major problem for cognitive neuroscience is to describe the interaction between stimulus and task driven neural modulation. We used fMRI to investigate this interaction in the human brain. Ten male subjects performed a passive listening and a semantic categorization task in a factorial design. In both tasks, words were presented auditorily at three different rates.
We found: (i) as word presentation rate increased hemodynamic responses increased bilaterally in the superior temporal gyrus including Heschl's gyrus (HG), the planum temporale (PT), and the planum polare (PP); (ii) compared to passive listening, semantic categorization produced increased bilateral activations in the ventral inferior frontal gyrus (IFG) and middle frontal gyrus (MFG); (iii) hemodynamic responses in the left dorsal IFG increased linearly with increasing word presentation rate only during the semantic categorization task; (iv) in the semantic task hemodynamic responses decreased bilaterally in the insula with increasing word presentation rates; and (v) in parts of the HG the hemodynamic response increased with increasing word presentation rates during passive listening more strongly.
The observed "rate effect" in primary and secondary auditory cortex is in accord with previous findings and suggests that these areas are driven by low-level stimulus attributes. The bilateral effect of semantic categorization is also in accord with previous studies and emphasizes the role of these areas in semantic operations. The interaction between semantic categorization and word presentation in the left IFG indicates that this area has linguistic functions not present in the right IFG. Finally, we speculate that the interaction between semantic categorization and word presentation rates in HG and the insula might reflect an inhibition of the transfer of unnecessary information from the temporal to frontal regions of the brain.
Pronouns are bound to their antecedents by matching syntactic and semantic information. The aim of this functional magnetic resonance imaging study was to localize syntactic and semantic information retrieval and integration during pronoun resolution. Especially we investigated their possible interaction with verbal working memory manipulated by distance between antecedent and pronoun. We disentangled biological and syntactic gender information using German sentences about persons (biological/syntactic gender) or things (syntactic gender) followed by congruent or incongruent pronouns. Increasing the distance between pronoun and antecedent resulted in a short and a long distance condition. Analysis revealed a language related network including inferior frontal regions bilaterally (integration), left anterior and posterior temporal regions (lexico-semantics and syntactic retrieval) and the anterior cingulate gyrus (conflict resolution) involved in pronoun resolution. Activities within the inferior frontal region were driven by Congruency (incongruent > congruent) and Distance (long > short). Temporal regions were sensitive to Distance and Congruency (but solely within long distant conditions). Furthermore, anterior temporal regions were sensitive to the antecedent type with an increased activity for person pronouns compared to thing pronouns. We suggest that activity modulations within these areas reflect the integration process of an appropriate antecedent which depends on the type of information that has to be retrieved (lexico-syntactic posterior temporal, lexico-semantics anterior temporal). It also depends on the overall syntactic and semantic complexity of long distant sentences. The results are interpreted in the context of the memory–unification-control model for sentence comprehension as proposed by Vosse and Kempen (2000), Hagoort (2005), and Snijders et al. (2009).
language; pronoun; syntax; semantics; memory; unification; MUC; fMRI
The active maintenance of visual stimuli across a delay interval in working memory tasks is thought to involve reverberant neural communication between the prefrontal cortex and posterior visual association areas. The hippocampus has also recently been attributed a role in this retention process, presumably via its reciprocal connectivity with visual regions. To characterize the nature of these inter-regional interactions, we applied a recently developed functional connectivity analysis method to an event-related fMRI experiment in which participants performed a delayed face recognition task. As the number of faces that participants were required to remember was parametrically increased, the right inferior frontal gyrus (IFG) showed a linearly decreasing degree of functional connectivity with the fusiform face area (FFA) during the delay period. In contrast, the hippocampus linearly increased its delay period functional connectivity with both the FFA and the IFG as the mnemonic load increased. Moreover, the degree to which participants’ FFA showed a load-dependent increase in its connectivity with the hippocampus predicted the degree to which its connectivity with the IFG decreased with load. Thus, these two neural circuits may dynamically trade off to accommodate the particular mnemonic demands of the task, with IFG-FFA interactions mediating maintenance at lower loads and hippocampal interactions supporting retention at higher loads.
Pattern of brain asymmetries varies with handedness, gender, age, and with variety of genetic and social factors. Large-scale neuroimaging analyses can optimize the detection of asymmetric features and confirm the factors that might modulate pattern of brain asymmetries. We attempted to evaluate eventual differences between genders in hemodynamic responses to a simple language task.
12 healthy right-handed volunteers (age 24-46), 6 men and 6 women underwent fMRI scanning while performing the simple cognitive - language processing task – silent number counting in Serbian.
Group analysis of hemodynamic responses shows activation in expected brain language areas of inferior frontal gyrus (IFG) and superior temporal gyrus (STG) in both hemispheres. In the male group, aside from dedicated language areas in IFG and STG, activation was noted in right frontal region and interhemispheric supplementary motor area. On the other hand, in the female group, besides activation in dedicated language areas, activation was noted, in right hippocampus, limbic brain and cerebellum bilaterally.
Our results on differences in silent counting by means of fMRI suggest that those differences may be based on different brain pattern activation in men and women. The relation between performance, strategies and regional brain activation should be the topic of further studies when considering not only gender differences in language processing but also differences that may be attributed to the variations in the task details, stimuli, and the stimulus presentation methods.
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.
fMRI syntax; Task effects
The core of human language, which differentiates it from the communicative abilities of other species, is the set of combinatorial operations called syntax. For over a century researchers have attempted to understand how this essential function is organised in the brain. Here we combine behavioural and neuroimaging methods, with left hemisphere-damaged patients and healthy controls, to identify the pathways connecting the brain regions involved in syntactic processing. In a previous fMRI study (Tyler et al. 2010b) we established that regions of left inferior frontal cortex and left posterior middle temporal cortex were activated during syntactic processing. These clusters were used here as seeds for probabilistic tractography analyses in patients and controls, allowing us to delineate, and measure the integrity of, the white matter tracts connecting the frontal and temporal regions active for syntax. We found that structural disconnection in either of two fibre bundles - the arcuate fasciculus or the extreme capsule fibre system - was associated with syntactic impairment in patients. The results demonstrate the causal role in syntactic analysis of these two major left hemisphere fibre bundles - challenging existing views about their role in language functions, and providing a new basis for future research in this key area of human cognition.
diffusion tensor imaging; connectivity; tractography; stroke; grammar
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.
Broca's area; fMRI; language; semantic; syntax
Does the brain activity underlying the production of deception differ depending on whether or not one believes their deception can be detected? To address this question, we had participants commit a mock theft in a laboratory setting, and then interrogated them while they underwent functional MRI (fMRI) scanning. Crucially, during some parts of the interrogation participants believed a lie-detector was activated, whereas in other parts they were told it was switched-off. We were thus able to examine the neural activity associated with the contrast between producing true vs. false claims, as well as the independent contrast between believing that deception could and could not be detected. We found increased activation in the right amygdala and inferior frontal gyrus (IFG), as well as the left posterior cingulate cortex (PCC), during the production of false (compared to true) claims. Importantly, there was a significant interaction between the effects of deception and belief in the left temporal pole and right hippocampus/parahippocampal gyrus, where activity increased during the production of deception when participants believed their false claims could be detected, but not when they believed the lie-detector was switched-off. As these regions are associated with binding socially complex perceptual input and memory retrieval, we conclude that producing deceptive behavior in a context in which one believes this deception can be detected is associated with a cognitively taxing effort to reconcile contradictions between one's actions and recollections.
mock-crime; deception; beliefs; lie-detection; fMRI
BOLD signal was measured in sixteen participants who made timed font change detection judgments in visually presented sentences that varied in syntactic structure and the order of animate and inanimate nouns. Behavioral data indicated that sentences were processed to the level of syntactic structure. BOLD signal increased in visual association areas bilaterally and left supramarginal gyrus in the contrast of sentences with object- and subject-extracted relative clauses without font changes in which the animacy order of the nouns biased against the syntactically determined meaning of the sentence. This result differs from the findings in a non-word detection task (Caplan et al, 2008a), in which the same contrast led to increased BOLD signal in the left inferior frontal gyrus. The difference in areas of activation indicates that the sentences were processed differently in the two tasks. These differences were further explored in an eye tracking study using the materials in the two tasks. Issues pertaining to how parsing and interpretive operations are affected by a task that is being performed, and how this might affect BOLD signal correlates of syntactic contrasts, are discussed.
The extent to which the human brain shows evidence of functional plasticity across the lifespan has been addressed in the context of pathological brain changes and, more recently, of the changes that take place during healthy ageing. Here we examine the potential for plasticity by asking whether a strongly left-lateralized system can successfully reorganize to the right-hemisphere following left-hemisphere brain damage. To do this, we focus on syntax, a key linguistic function considered to be strongly left-lateralized, combining measures of tissue integrity, neural activation and behavioural performance. In a functional neuroimaging study participants heard spoken sentences that differentially loaded on syntactic and semantic information. While healthy controls activated a left-hemisphere network of correlated activity including Brodmann areas 45/47 and posterior middle temporal gyrus during syntactic processing, patients activated Brodmann areas 45/47 bilaterally and right middle temporal gyrus. However, voxel-based morphometry analyses showed that only tissue integrity in left Brodmann areas 45/47 was correlated with activity and performance; poor tissue integrity in left Brodmann area 45 was associated with reduced functional activity and increased syntactic deficits. Activity in the right-hemisphere was not correlated with damage in the left-hemisphere or with performance. Reduced neural integrity in the left-hemisphere through brain damage or healthy ageing results in increased right-hemisphere activation in homologous regions to those left-hemisphere regions typically involved in the young. However, these regions do not support the same linguistic functions as those in the left-hemisphere and only indirectly contribute to preserved syntactic capacity. This establishes the unique role of the left hemisphere in syntax, a core component in human language.
aphasia; functional recovery; lesion studies; stroke
Patients with primary progressive aphasia (PPA) vary considerably in terms of which brain regions are impacted, as well as in the extent to which syntactic processing is impaired. Here we review the literature on the neural basis of syntactic deficits in PPA. Structural and functional imaging studies have most consistently associated syntactic deficits with damage to left inferior frontal cortex. Posterior perisylvian regions have been implicated in some studies. Damage to the superior longitudinal fasciculus, including its arcuate component, has been linked with syntactic deficits, even after gray matter atrophy is taken into account. These findings suggest that syntactic processing depends on left frontal and posterior perisylvian regions, as well as intact connectivity between them. In contrast, anterior temporal regions, and the ventral tracts that link frontal and temporal language regions, appear to be less important for syntax, since they are damaged in many PPA patients with spared syntactic processing.
syntax; primary progressive aphasia; voxel-based morphometry; functional MRI; diffusion tensor imaging
Broca’s area, a cerebral cortical area located in the inferior frontal gyrus (IFG) of the human brain, has been identified as one of several critical regions associated with the motor planning and execution of language. Anatomically, Broca’s area is most often larger in the left hemisphere, and functional imaging studies in humans indicate significant left-lateralized patterns of activation during language-related tasks [1–3]. If, and to what extent, nonhuman primates, particularly chimpanzees, possess a homologous region that is involved in the production of their own communicative signals remains unknown. Here, we show that portions of the IFG as well as other cortical and subcortical regions in chimpanzees are active during the production of communicative signals. These findings are the first to provide direct evidence of the neuroanatomical structures associated with the production of communicative behaviors in chimpanzees. Significant activation in the left IFG in conjunction with other cortical and subcortical brain areas during the production of communicative signals in chimpanzees suggests that the neurological substrates underlying language production in the human brain may have been present in the common ancestor of humans and chimpanzees.
In the human brain, a network of frontal and parietal regions is commonly recruited during tasks that demand the deliberate, focused control of thought and action. Previously, using a simple target detection task, we reported striking differences in the selectivity of the BOLD response in anatomically distinct subregions of this network. In particular, it was observed that the right inferior frontal gyrus (IFG) followed a tightly tuned function, selectively responding only to the current target object. Here, we examine this functional specialization further, using adapted versions of our original task. Our results demonstrate that the response of the right IFG to targets is a strong and replicable phenomenon. It occurs under increased attentional load, when targets and distractors are equally frequent, and when controlling for inhibitory processes. These findings support the hypothesis that the right IFG responds selectively to those items that are of the most relevance to the currently intended task schema.