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Concept: Broca's area


Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS), a non-invasive neuromodulation technique inducing prolonged brain excitability changes and promoting cerebral plasticity, is a promising option for neurorehabilitation. Here, we review progress in research on tDCS and language functions and on the potential role of tDCS in the treatment of post-stroke aphasia. Currently available data suggest that tDCS over language-related brain areas can modulate linguistic abilities in healthy individuals and can improve language performance in patients with aphasia. Whether the results obtained in experimental conditions are functionally important for the quality of life of patients and their caregivers remains unclear. Despite the fact that important variables are yet to be determined, tDCS combined with rehabilitation techniques seems a promising therapeutic option for aphasia.

Concepts: Medicine, Electricity, Electrochemistry, Traumatic brain injury, Linguistics, Alternating current, Transcranial direct current stimulation, Broca's area


For over a century neuroscientists have debated the dynamics by which human cortical language networks allow words to be spoken. Although it is widely accepted that Broca’s area in the left inferior frontal gyrus plays an important role in this process, it was not possible, until recently, to detail the timing of its recruitment relative to other language areas, nor how it interacts with these areas during word production. Using direct cortical surface recordings in neurosurgical patients, we studied the evolution of activity in cortical neuronal populations, as well as the Granger causal interactions between them. We found that, during the cued production of words, a temporal cascade of neural activity proceeds from sensory representations of words in temporal cortex to their corresponding articulatory gestures in motor cortex. Broca’s area mediates this cascade through reciprocal interactions with temporal and frontal motor regions. Contrary to classic notions of the role of Broca’s area in speech, while motor cortex is activated during spoken responses, Broca’s area is surprisingly silent. Moreover, when novel strings of articulatory gestures must be produced in response to nonword stimuli, neural activity is enhanced in Broca’s area, but not in motor cortex. These unique data provide evidence that Broca’s area coordinates the transformation of information across large-scale cortical networks involved in spoken word production. In this role, Broca’s area formulates an appropriate articulatory code to be implemented by motor cortex.

Concepts: Brain, Cerebral cortex, Cerebrum, Wernicke's area, Language, Frontal lobe, Inferior frontal gyrus, Broca's area


Historic theories of speech perception (Motor Theory and Analysis by Synthesis) invoked listeners' knowledge of speech production to explain speech perception. Neuroimaging data show that adult listeners activate motor brain areas during speech perception. In two experiments using magnetoencephalography (MEG), we investigated motor brain activation, as well as auditory brain activation, during discrimination of native and nonnative syllables in infants at two ages that straddle the developmental transition from language-universal to language-specific speech perception. Adults are also tested in Exp. 1. MEG data revealed that 7-mo-old infants activate auditory (superior temporal) as well as motor brain areas (Broca’s area, cerebellum) in response to speech, and equivalently for native and nonnative syllables. However, in 11- and 12-mo-old infants, native speech activates auditory brain areas to a greater degree than nonnative, whereas nonnative speech activates motor brain areas to a greater degree than native speech. This double dissociation in 11- to 12-mo-old infants matches the pattern of results obtained in adult listeners. Our infant data are consistent with Analysis by Synthesis: auditory analysis of speech is coupled with synthesis of the motor plans necessary to produce the speech signal. The findings have implications for: (i) perception-action theories of speech perception, (ii) the impact of “motherese” on early language learning, and (iii) the “social-gating” hypothesis and humans' development of social understanding.

Concepts: Scientific method, Brain, Cognition, Language, Developmental psychology, Theory, Haskins Laboratories, Broca's area


Wernicke’s aphasia is characterized by severe word and sentence comprehension impairments. The location of the underlying lesion site, known as Wernicke’s area, remains controversial. Questions related to this controversy were addressed in 72 patients with primary progressive aphasia who collectively displayed a wide spectrum of cortical atrophy sites and language impairment patterns. Clinico-anatomical correlations were explored at the individual and group levels. These analyses showed that neuronal loss in temporoparietal areas, traditionally included within Wernicke’s area, leave single word comprehension intact and cause inconsistent impairments of sentence comprehension. The most severe sentence comprehension impairments were associated with a heterogeneous set of cortical atrophy sites variably encompassing temporoparietal components of Wernicke’s area, Broca’s area, and dorsal premotor cortex. Severe comprehension impairments for single words, on the other hand, were invariably associated with peak atrophy sites in the left temporal pole and adjacent anterior temporal cortex, a pattern of atrophy that left sentence comprehension intact. These results show that the neural substrates of word and sentence comprehension are dissociable and that a circumscribed cortical area equally critical for word and sentence comprehension is unlikely to exist anywhere in the cerebral cortex. Reports of combined word and sentence comprehension impairments in Wernicke’s aphasia come almost exclusively from patients with cerebrovascular accidents where brain damage extends into subcortical white matter. The syndrome of Wernicke’s aphasia is thus likely to reflect damage not only to the cerebral cortex but also to underlying axonal pathways, leading to strategic cortico-cortical disconnections within the language network. The results of this investigation further reinforce the conclusion that the left anterior temporal lobe, a region ignored by classic aphasiology, needs to be inserted into the language network with a critical role in the multisynaptic hierarchy underlying word comprehension and object naming.

Concepts: Neuron, Brain, Cerebral cortex, Temporal lobe, Cerebrum, Wernicke's area, Aphasia, Broca's area


BACKGROUND: In the last decade transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) have been introduced in aphasia post-stroke recovery as a tool for modulating neuroplasticity. However, it is still unclear whether tDCS should be applied at rest (off-line) or combined with behavioural treatment strategies (on-line), therefore, this study investigates the effect of repeated sessions of off-line tDCS on language recovery in post-stroke chronic aphasic patients. METHODOLOGY: Eight post-stroke patients with different type and degree of chronic aphasia underwent two weeks of off-line anodal tDCS (2mA intensity for 20minutes a day) on Broca’s area and two weeks of sham stimulation as a control condition. Language recovery was measured assessing object and action naming abilities with a computerized picture naming task. RESULTS: No significant difference between anodal tDCS and sham stimulation, both for object and action naming tasks, was found. Descriptive analysis of single cases showed that after tDCS only one patient improved substantially on action naming task. CONCLUSION: With the exception of one patient, the overall results suggest that in chronic aphasic patients the off-line tDCS protocol applied in this study is not effective in improving noun and verb naming abilities.

Concepts: Wernicke's area, Language, Noun, Transcranial direct current stimulation, Aphasia, Broca's area, Conduction aphasia, Nominal aphasia


There is a growing body of evidence to support the use of non-invasive brain stimulation techniques such as transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) and transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) for the treatment of acquired speech and language disorders. The aim of the present paper is to review evidence to support the use of these procedures in the treatment of aphasia and dysarthria. Both TMS and tDCS are described in terms of their underlying principles and biophysics and their relative advantages and disadvantages for rehabilitation of acquired neurogenic communication disorders. Several studies have documented positive effects of inhibitory repetitive TMS (rTMS) to right Broca’s area homologue on language recovery in non-fluent aphasia post-stroke. Improved language outcomes subsequent to high frequency rTMS applied to the lesioned hemisphere have also been documented. Similarly, therapeutic benefits have also been reported following tDCS, although the findings are less consistent than is the case with rTMS. Improved articulatory function and speech intelligibility has been noted in response to stimulation with excitatory rTMS in Parkinson’s disease. It is suggested that the use of brain stimulation techniques in combination with more traditional therapies may represent the most innovative future approach to the treatment of acquired communication disorders.

Concepts: Brain, Neurology, Language, Transcranial magnetic stimulation, Neurophysiology, Transcranial direct current stimulation, Aphasia, Broca's area


Both hemispheres are engaged in recovery from word production deficits in aphasia. Lexical therapy has been shown to induce brain reorganization even in patients with chronic aphasia. However, the interplay of factors influencing reorganization patterns still remains unresolved. We were especially interested in the relation between lesion site, therapy-induced recovery, and beneficial reorganization patterns. Thus, we applied intensive lexical therapy, which was evaluated with functional magnetic resonance imaging, to 14 chronic patients with aphasic word retrieval deficits. In a group study, we aimed to illuminate brain reorganization of the naming network in comparison with healthy controls. Moreover, we intended to analyse the data with joint independent component analysis to relate lesion sites to therapy-induced brain reorganization, and to correlate resulting components with therapy gain. As a result, we found peri-lesional and contralateral activations basically overlapping with premorbid naming networks observed in healthy subjects. Reduced activation patterns for patients compared to controls before training comprised damaged left hemisphere language areas, right precentral and superior temporal gyrus, as well as left caudate and anterior cingulate cortex. There were decreasing activations of bilateral visuo-cognitive, articulatory, attention, and language areas due to therapy, with stronger decreases for patients in right middle temporal gyrus/superior temporal sulcus, bilateral precuneus as well as left anterior cingulate cortex and caudate. The joint independent component analysis revealed three components indexing lesion subtypes that were associated with patient-specific recovery patterns. Activation decreases (i) of an extended frontal lesion disconnecting language pathways occurred in left inferior frontal gyrus; (ii) of a small frontal lesion were found in bilateral inferior frontal gyrus; and (iii) of a large temporo-parietal lesion occurred in bilateral inferior frontal gyrus and contralateral superior temporal gyrus. All components revealed increases in prefrontal areas. One component was negatively correlated with therapy gain. Therapy was associated exclusively with activation decreases, which could mainly be attributed to higher processing efficiency within the naming network. In our joint independent component analysis, all three lesion patterns disclosed involved deactivation of left inferior frontal gyrus. Moreover, we found evidence for increased demands on control processes. As expected, we saw partly differential reorganization profiles depending on lesion patterns. There was no compensatory deactivation for the large left inferior frontal lesion, with its less advantageous outcome probably being related to its disconnection from crucial language processing pathways.

Concepts: Magnetic resonance imaging, Cerebrum, Superior temporal gyrus, Brodmann area 24, Anterior cingulate cortex, Cingulate cortex, Gyrus, Broca's area


To study resting cerebral blood flow in children and adults with developmental stuttering.

Concepts: Hematology, Broca's area


Previous functional neuroimaging studies have identified multiple brain areas associated with distinct aspects of car driving in simulated traffic environments. Few studies, however, have examined brain morphology associated with everyday car-driving experience in real traffic. Thus, the aim of the current study was to identify gray matter volume differences between drivers and non-drivers. We collected T1-weighted structural brain images from 73 healthy young adults (36 drivers and 37 non-drivers). We performed a whole-brain voxel-based morphometry analysis to examine between-group differences in regional gray matter volume. Compared with non-drivers, drivers showed significantly greater gray matter volume in the left cerebellar hemisphere, which has been associated with cognitive rather than motor functioning. In contrast, we found no brain areas with significantly greater gray matter volume in non-drivers compared with drivers. Our findings indicate that experience with everyday car driving in real traffic is associated with greater gray matter volume in the left cerebellar hemisphere. This brain area may be involved in abilities that are critical for driving a car, but are not commonly or frequently used during other daily activities.

Concepts: Brain, Neuroimaging, Cerebral cortex, Cultural studies, Area, Driving, Automobile, Broca's area


Classic models of language organization posited that separate motor and sensory language foci existed in the inferior frontal gyrus (Broca’s area) and superior temporal gyrus (Wernicke’s area), respectively, and that connections between these sites (arcuate fasciculus) allowed for auditory-motor interaction. These theories have predominated for more than a century, but advances in neuroimaging and stimulation mapping have provided a more detailed description of the functional neuroanatomy of language. New insights have shaped modern network-based models of speech processing composed of parallel and interconnected streams involving both cortical and subcortical areas. Recent models emphasize processing in “dorsal” and “ventral” pathways, mediating phonological and semantic processing, respectively. Phonological processing occurs along a dorsal pathway, from the posterosuperior temporal to the inferior frontal cortices. On the other hand, semantic information is carried in a ventral pathway that runs from the temporal pole to the basal occipitotemporal cortex, with anterior connections. Functional MRI has poor positive predictive value in determining critical language sites and should only be used as an adjunct for preoperative planning. Cortical and subcortical mapping should be used to define functional resection boundaries in eloquent areas and remains the clinical gold standard. In tracing the historical advancements in our understanding of speech processing, the authors hope to not only provide practicing neurosurgeons with additional information that will aid in surgical planning and prevent postoperative morbidity, but also underscore the fact that neurosurgeons are in a unique position to further advance our understanding of the anatomy and functional organization of language.

Concepts: Cerebral cortex, Cerebrum, Superior temporal gyrus, Wernicke's area, Linguistics, Language, Inferior frontal gyrus, Broca's area