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      Neural Correlates of Processing Passive Sentences

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          Abstract

          Previous research has shown that comprehension of complex sentences involving wh-movement (e.g., object-relative clauses) elicits activation in the left inferior frontal gyrus (IFG) and left posterior temporal cortex. However, relatively little is known about the neural correlates of processing passive sentences, which differ from other complex sentences in terms of representation ( i.e., noun phrase (NP)-movement) and processing ( i.e., the time course of syntactic reanalysis). In the present study, 27 adults (14 younger and 13 older) listened to passive and active sentences and performed a sentence-picture verification task using functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI). Passive sentences, relative to active sentences, elicited greater activation in bilateral IFG and left temporo-occipital regions. Participant age did not significantly affect patterns of activation. Consistent with previous research, activation in left temporo-occipital cortex likely reflects thematic reanalysis processes, whereas, activation in the left IFG supports processing of complex syntax ( i.e., NP-movement). Right IFG activation may reflect syntactic reanalysis processing demands associated with the sentence-picture verification task.

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          Most cited references 53

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          Segregating the core computational faculty of human language from working memory.

          In contrast to simple structures in animal vocal behavior, hierarchical structures such as center-embedded sentences manifest the core computational faculty of human language. Previous artificial grammar learning studies found that the left pars opercularis (LPO) subserves the processing of hierarchical structures. However, it is not clear whether this area is activated by the structural complexity per se or by the increased memory load entailed in processing hierarchical structures. To dissociate the effect of structural complexity from the effect of memory cost, we conducted a functional magnetic resonance imaging study of German sentence processing with a 2-way factorial design tapping structural complexity (with/without hierarchical structure, i.e., center-embedding of clauses) and working memory load (long/short distance between syntactically dependent elements; i.e., subject nouns and their respective verbs). Functional imaging data revealed that the processes for structure and memory operate separately but co-operatively in the left inferior frontal gyrus; activities in the LPO increased as a function of structural complexity, whereas activities in the left inferior frontal sulcus (LIFS) were modulated by the distance over which the syntactic information had to be transferred. Diffusion tensor imaging showed that these 2 regions were interconnected through white matter fibers. Moreover, functional coupling between the 2 regions was found to increase during the processing of complex, hierarchically structured sentences. These results suggest a neuroanatomical segregation of syntax-related aspects represented in the LPO from memory-related aspects reflected in the LIFS, which are, however, highly interconnected functionally and anatomically.
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            Brain activation modulated by sentence comprehension.

             W Eddy,  K Thulborn,  M Just (1996)
            The comprehension of visually presented sentences produces brain activation that increases with the linguistic complexity of the sentence. The volume of neural tissue activated (number of voxels) during sentence comprehension was measured with echo-planar functional magnetic resonance imaging. The modulation of the volume of activation by sentence complexity was observed in a network of four areas: the classical left-hemisphere language areas (the left laterosuperior temporal cortex, or Wernicke's area, and the left inferior frontal gyrus, or Broca's area) and their homologous right-hemisphere areas, although the right areas had much smaller volumes of activation than did the left areas. These findings generally indicate that the amount of neural activity that a given cognitive process engenders is dependent on the computational demand that the task imposes.
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              Lectures on Government and Binding.

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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Brain Sci
                Brain Sci
                brainsci
                Brain Sciences
                MDPI
                2076-3425
                02 August 2013
                September 2013
                : 3
                : 3
                : 1198-1214
                Affiliations
                [1 ]Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, Center for the Neurobiology of Language, Northwestern University, Francis Searle Building, 2240 Campus Drive, Evanston, IL 60208, USA; E-Mails: jennifer-mack-0@ 123456northwestern.edu (J.E.M.); elena.barbieri83@ 123456gmail.com (E.B.)
                [2 ]Department of Linguistics, Tel Aviv University, Webb Building, Ramat Aviv, Tel Aviv 69978, Israel; E-Mail: ameltzer@ 123456post.tau.ac.il
                [3 ]Sagol School of Neuroscience, Webb Building, Tel Aviv University, Ramat Aviv, Tel Aviv 69978, Israel
                [4 ]Cognitive Neurology and Alzheimer’s Disease Center, Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University, 320 E. Superior, Searle 11-453, Chicago, IL 60611, USA
                [5 ]Department of Neurology, Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University, Abbott Hall, 11th Floor, 710 North Lake Shore Drive, Chicago, IL 60611, USA
                Author notes
                [* ] Author to whom correspondence should be addressed; E-Mail: ckthom@ 123456northwestern.edu ; Tel.: +1-847-467-7591; Fax: +1-847-467-7377.
                Article
                brainsci-03-01198
                10.3390/brainsci3031198
                4061884
                © 2013 by the authors; licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.

                This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution license ( http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/).

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