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Functional mapping of language networks in the normal brain using a word-association task
Ghosh, Shantanu, Basu, Amrita, Kumaran Senthil S, Khushu, Subash
Ind J Radiol Imaging 20, 3, 182-187

Article history: Received 9 October 2009, Accepted in revised form 15 August 2010


Abstract

Background: Language functions are known to be affected in diverse neurological conditions, including ischemic stroke, traumatic brain injury, and brain tumors. Because language networks are extensive, interpretation of functional data depends on the task completed during evaluation. Aim: The aim was to map the hemodynamic consequences of word association using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) in normal human subjects. Materials and Methods: Ten healthy subjects underwent fMRI scanning with a postlexical access semantic association task vs lexical processing task. The fMRI protocol involved a T2*-weighted gradient-echo echo-planar imaging (GE-EPI) sequence (TR 4523 ms, TE 64 ms, flip angle 90°) with alternate baseline and activation blocks. A total of 78 scans were taken (interscan interval = 3 s) with a total imaging time of 587 s. Functional data were processed in Statistical Parametric Mapping software (SPM2) with 8-mm Gaussian kernel by convolving the blood oxygenation level-dependent (BOLD) signal with an hemodynamic response function estimated by general linear method to generate SPM{t} and SPM{F} maps. Results: Single subject analysis of the functional data (FWE-corrected, P≤0.001) revealed extensive activation in the frontal lobes, with overlaps among middle frontal gyrus (MFG), superior, and inferior frontal gyri. BOLD activity was also found in the medial frontal gyrus, middle occipital gyrus (MOG), anterior fusiform gyrus, superior and inferior parietal lobules, and to a smaller extent, the thalamus and right anterior cerebellum. Group analysis (FWE-corrected, P≤0.001) revealed neural recruitment of bilateral lingual gyri, left MFG, bilateral MOG, left superior occipital gyrus, left fusiform gyrus, bilateral thalami, and right cerebellar areas. Conclusions: Group data analysis revealed a cerebellar–occipital–fusiform–thalamic network centered around bilateral lingual gyri for word association, thereby indicating how these areas facilitate language comprehension by activating a semantic association network of words processed postlexical access. This finding is important when assessing the extent of cognitive damage and/or recovery and can be used for presurgical planning after optimization.

Key words: fMRI; language network; lingual gyrus; presurgical planning; word association

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