Most neuroimaging studies of language function to date use a block-subtraction paradigm in which images acquired during relatively long periods of target stimuli are compared to those acquired during a control period. These studies typically require an overt response on the part of the subject, usually some type of discrimination or grammatical judgment by button press, or silent word generation. Results from studies of syntactic and semantic processing have generally been compatible with the classical correlation to Broca's area and Wernicke's area, respectively. Recently, functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) studies departing from the block-subtraction paradigm in favor of event-related fMRI paradigms have been reported. We have extended the use of this approach to examine implicit (i.e., without an explicit task on the part of the subject) syntactic and semantic processing at the phrasal level, using visually presented verb phrases. Left BA 44 is more strongly activated for the syntactic condition than the semantic condition. BA 45, 10, and 46 show laterality differences: mostly left-lateralized for the syntactic condition and right-lateralized for the semantic condition. We also find activations of the inferior parietal lobe, consistent with a visual oddball response reported previously, and the anterior cingulate gyrus (BA 32), implicated for attention and memory-related processes in numerous studies.
Copyright 1999 Academic Press.