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1.  The anterior temporal lobes support residual comprehension in Wernicke’s aphasia 
Brain  2014;137(3):931-943.
Robson et al. use fMRI to investigate preserved written word and picture comprehension in Wernicke’s aphasia (impaired verbal comprehension following left temporoparietal damage). Bilaterally enhanced activation in the ventral and anterior temporal lobes as patients semantically process visually presented material emphasizes the importance of these regions for multimodal comprehension.
Wernicke’s aphasia occurs after a stroke to classical language comprehension regions in the left temporoparietal cortex. Consequently, auditory–verbal comprehension is significantly impaired in Wernicke’s aphasia but the capacity to comprehend visually presented materials (written words and pictures) is partially spared. This study used functional magnetic resonance imaging to investigate the neural basis of written word and picture semantic processing in Wernicke’s aphasia, with the wider aim of examining how the semantic system is altered after damage to the classical comprehension regions. Twelve participants with chronic Wernicke’s aphasia and 12 control participants performed semantic animate–inanimate judgements and a visual height judgement baseline task. Whole brain and region of interest analysis in Wernicke’s aphasia and control participants found that semantic judgements were underpinned by activation in the ventral and anterior temporal lobes bilaterally. The Wernicke’s aphasia group displayed an ‘over-activation’ in comparison with control participants, indicating that anterior temporal lobe regions become increasingly influential following reduction in posterior semantic resources. Semantic processing of written words in Wernicke’s aphasia was additionally supported by recruitment of the right anterior superior temporal lobe, a region previously associated with recovery from auditory-verbal comprehension impairments. Overall, the results provide support for models in which the anterior temporal lobes are crucial for multimodal semantic processing and that these regions may be accessed without support from classic posterior comprehension regions.
doi:10.1093/brain/awt373
PMCID: PMC3927705  PMID: 24519979
Wernicke’s aphasia; semantic processing; language comprehension; anterior temporal lobe; Wernicke’s area
2.  Semantic memory is impaired in patients with unilateral anterior temporal lobe resection for temporal lobe epilepsy 
Brain  2012;135(1):242-258.
Contemporary clinical and basic neuroscience studies have increasingly implicated the anterior temporal lobe regions, bilaterally, in the formation of coherent concepts. Mounting convergent evidence for the importance of the anterior temporal lobe in semantic memory is found in patients with bilateral anterior temporal lobe damage (e.g. semantic dementia), functional neuroimaging and repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation studies. If this proposal is correct, then one might expect patients with anterior temporal lobe resection for long-standing temporal lobe epilepsy to be semantically impaired. Such patients, however, do not present clinically with striking comprehension deficits but with amnesia and variable anomia, leading some to conclude that semantic memory is intact in resection for temporal lobe epilepsy and thus casting doubt over the conclusions drawn from semantic dementia and linked basic neuroscience studies. Whilst there is a considerable neuropsychological literature on temporal lobe epilepsy, few studies have probed semantic memory directly, with mixed results, and none have undertaken the same type of systematic investigation of semantic processing that has been conducted with other patient groups. In this study, therefore, we investigated the semantic performance of 20 patients with resection for chronic temporal lobe epilepsy with a full battery of semantic assessments, including more sensitive measures of semantic processing. The results provide a bridge between the current clinical observations about resection for temporal lobe epilepsy and the expectations from semantic dementia and other neuroscience findings. Specifically, we found that on simple semantic tasks, the patients’ accuracy fell in the normal range, with the exception that some patients with left resection for temporal lobe epilepsy had measurable anomia. Once the semantic assessments were made more challenging, by probing specific-level concepts, lower frequency/more abstract items or measuring reaction times on semantic tasks versus those on difficulty-matched non-semantic assessments, evidence of a semantic impairment was found in all individuals. We conclude by describing a unified, computationally inspired framework for capturing the variable degrees of semantic impairment found across different patient groups (semantic dementia, temporal lobe epilepsy, glioma and stroke) as well as semantic processing in neurologically intact participants.
doi:10.1093/brain/awr325
PMCID: PMC3267985  PMID: 22287382
language processing; memory; semantic memory disorders; temporal lobe epilepsy
3.  Different impairments of semantic cognition in semantic dementia and semantic aphasia: evidence from the non-verbal domain 
Brain  2009;132(9):2593-2608.
Disorders of semantic cognition in different neuropsychological conditions result from diverse areas of brain damage and may have different underlying causes. This study used a comparative case-series design to examine the hypothesis that relatively circumscribed bilateral atrophy of the anterior temporal lobe in semantic dementia (SD) produces a gradual degradation of core semantic representations, whilst a deficit of cognitive control produces multi-modal semantic impairment in a subset of patients with stroke aphasia following damage involving the left prefrontal cortex or regions in and around the temporoparietal area; this condition, which transcends traditional aphasia classifications, is referred to as ‘semantic aphasia’ (SA). There have been very few direct comparisons of these patient groups to date and these previous studies have focussed on verbal comprehension. This study used a battery of object-use tasks to extend this line of enquiry into the non-verbal domain for the first time. A group of seven SA patients were identified who failed both word and picture versions of a semantic association task. These patients were compared with eight SD cases. Both groups showed significant deficits in object use but these impairments were qualitatively different. Item familiarity correlated with performance on object-use tasks for the SD group, consistent with the view that core semantic representations are degrading in this condition. In contrast, the SA participants were insensitive to the familiarity of the objects. Further, while the SD patients performed consistently across tasks that tapped different aspects of knowledge and object use for the same items, the performance of the SA participants reflected the control requirements of the tasks. Single object use was relatively preserved in SA but performance on complex mechanical puzzles was substantially impaired. Similarly, the SA patients were able to complete straightforward item matching tasks, such as word-picture matching, but performed more poorly on associative picture-matching tasks, even when the tests involved the same items. The two groups of patients also showed a different pattern of errors in object use. SA patients made substantial numbers of erroneous intrusions in their demonstrations, such as inappropriate object movements. In contrast, response omissions were more common in SD. This study provides converging evidence for qualitatively different impairments of semantic cognition in SD and SA, and uniquely demonstrates this pattern in a non-verbal expressive domain—object use.
doi:10.1093/brain/awp146
PMCID: PMC2766180  PMID: 19506072
semantic dementia; stroke aphasia; semantic memory; semantic cognition; non-verbal; object use
4.  Anterior temporal lobe connectivity correlates with functional outcome after aphasic stroke 
Brain  2009;132(12):3428-3442.
Focal brain lesions are assumed to produce language deficits by two basic mechanisms: local cortical dysfunction at the lesion site, and remote cortical dysfunction due to disruption of the transfer and integration of information between connected brain regions. However, functional imaging studies investigating language outcome after aphasic stroke have tended to focus only on the role of local cortical function. In this positron emission tomography functional imaging study, we explored relationships between language comprehension performance after aphasic stroke and the functional connectivity of a key speech-processing region in left anterolateral superior temporal cortex. We compared the organization of left anterolateral superior temporal cortex functional connections during narrative speech comprehension in normal subjects with left anterolateral superior temporal cortex connectivity in a group of chronic aphasic stroke patients. We then evaluated the language deficits associated with altered left anterolateral superior temporal cortex connectivity in aphasic stroke. During normal narrative speech comprehension, left anterolateral superior temporal cortex displayed positive functional connections with left anterior basal temporal cortex, left inferior frontal gyrus and homotopic cortex in right anterolateral superior temporal cortex. As a group, aphasic patients demonstrated a selective disruption of the normal functional connection between left and right anterolateral superior temporal cortices. We observed that deficits in auditory single word and sentence comprehension correlated both with the degree of disruption of left-right anterolateral superior temporal cortical connectivity and with local activation in the anterolateral superior temporal cortex. Subgroup analysis revealed that aphasic patients with preserved positive intertemporal connectivity displayed better receptive language function; these patients also showed greater than normal left inferior frontal gyrus activity, suggesting a possible ‘top-down’ compensatory mechanism. These results demonstrate that functional connectivity between anterolateral superior temporal cortex and right anterior superior temporal cortex is a marker of receptive language outcome after aphasic stroke, and illustrate that language system organization after focal brain lesions may be marked by complex signatures of altered local and pathway-level function.
doi:10.1093/brain/awp270
PMCID: PMC2792371  PMID: 19903736
aphasia; post-stroke recovery; functional neuroimaging; neural networks; anterior temporal lobe

Results 1-4 (4)