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Fronto-temporal brain systems supporting spoken language comprehension
Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, 363(1493), 1037-1054
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The research described here combines psycholinguistically well-motivated questions about different aspects of human language comprehension with behavioural and neuroimaging studies of normal performance, incorporating both subtractive analysis techniques and functional connectivity methods, and applying these tasks and techniques to the analysis of the functional and neural properties of brain-damaged patients with selective linguistic deficits in the relevant domains. The results of these investigations point to a set of partially dissociable sub-systems supporting three major aspects of spoken language comprehension, involving regular inflectional morphology, sentence-level syntactic analysis and sentence-level semantic interpretation. Differential patterns of fronto-temporal connectivity for these three domains confirm that the core aspects of language processing are carried out in a fronto-temporo-parietal language system which is modulated in different ways as a function of different linguistic processing requirements. No one region or subregion holds the key to a specific language function; each requires the coordination of activity within a number of different regions. Functional connectivity analysis plays the critical role of indicating the regions which directly participate in a given sub-process, by virtue of their joint time-dependent activity. By revealing these codependencies, connectivity analysis sharpens the pattern of structure–function relations underlying specific aspects of language performance.