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Adaptive significance of right hemisphere activation in aphasic language comprehension.


ABSTRACT: Aphasic patients often exhibit increased right hemisphere activity during language tasks. This may represent takeover of function by regions homologous to the left-hemisphere language networks, maladaptive interference, or adaptation of alternate compensatory strategies. To distinguish between these accounts, we tested language comprehension in 25 aphasic patients using an online sentence-picture matching paradigm while measuring brain activation with MEG. Linguistic conditions included semantically irreversible ("The boy is eating the apple") and reversible ("The boy is pushing the girl") sentences at three levels of syntactic complexity. As expected, patients performed well above chance on irreversible sentences, and at chance on reversible sentences of high complexity. Comprehension of reversible non-complex sentences ranged from nearly perfect to chance, and was highly correlated with offline measures of language comprehension. Lesion analysis revealed that comprehension deficits for reversible sentences were predicted by damage to the left temporal lobe. Although aphasic patients activated homologous areas in the right temporal lobe, such activation was not correlated with comprehension performance. Rather, patients with better comprehension exhibited increased activity in dorsal fronto-parietal regions. Correlations between performance and dorsal network activity occurred bilaterally during perception of sentences, and in the right hemisphere during a post-sentence memory delay. These results suggest that effortful reprocessing of perceived sentences in short-term memory can support improved comprehension in aphasia, and that strategic recruitment of alternative networks, rather than homologous takeover, may account for some findings of right hemisphere language activation in aphasia.

SUBMITTER: Meltzer JA 

PROVIDER: S-EPMC3821997 | BioStudies | 2013-01-01

REPOSITORIES: biostudies

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