Logo of jnnpsycJournal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and PsychiatryVisit this articleSubmit a manuscriptReceive email alertsContact usBMJ
J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry. 1998 Apr; 64(4): 492–498.
PMCID: PMC2170033

Functional magnetic resonance imaging of human brain activity in a verbal fluency task


OBJECTIVES—Functional MRI (fMRI) holds the promise of non-invasive mapping of human brain function in both health and disease. Yet its sensitivity and reliability for mapping higher cognitive function are still being determined. Using verbal fluency as a task, the objective was to ascertain the consistency of fMRI on a conventional scanner for determining the anatomic substrate of language between subjects and between sexes. Comparison was made with previous PET studies.
METHODS—Using a 1.5 Tesla magnet and an echoplanar pulse sequence, whole brain fMRI was obtained from 12 normal right handed subjects (6 males and 6 females) as they performed a verbal fluency task.
RESULTS—A broadly consistent pattern of response was seen across subjects. Areas showing activation changes included the left prefrontal cortex and right cerebellum, in agreement with previous PET 15O-H2O studies. In addition, significantly decreased responses were seen in the posterior cingulate and over an extensive area of mesial and dorsolateral parietal and superior temporal cortices. The male cohort showed a slight asymmetry of parietal deactivation, with more involvement on the right, whereas the female cohort showed a small region of activation in the right orbitofrontal cortex. There were individual task related regional changes in all 12 subjects with the area showing the most significant change being the left prefrontal cortex in all cases.
CONCLUSIONS—Magnetic resonance scanners of conventional field strength can provide functional brain mapping data with a sensitivity at least that of PET. Activation was seen in left prefrontal and right cerebellar regions, as with PET. However, decremental responses were seen over a much larger area of the posterior cortex than had been anticipated by prior studies. The ability to see a response in each subject individually suggests that fMRI may be useful in the preinterventional mapping of pathological states, and offers a non-invasive alternative to the Wada test for assessment of hemispheric dominance. There were no gross differences in the pattern of activation between male and female subjects.

Full Text

The Full Text of this article is available as a PDF (421K).

Selected References

These references are in PubMed. This may not be the complete list of references from this article.
  • Janowsky JS, Shimamura AP, Squire LR. Source memory impairment in patients with frontal lobe lesions. Neuropsychologia. 1989;27(8):1043–1056. [PubMed]
  • Friston KJ, Frith CD, Liddle PF, Frackowiak RS. Investigating a network model of word generation with positron emission tomography. Proc Biol Sci. 1991 May 22;244(1310):101–106. [PubMed]
  • Frith CD, Friston KJ, Liddle PF, Frackowiak RS. A PET study of word finding. Neuropsychologia. 1991;29(12):1137–1148. [PubMed]
  • Wise R, Chollet F, Hadar U, Friston K, Hoffner E, Frackowiak R. Distribution of cortical neural networks involved in word comprehension and word retrieval. Brain. 1991 Aug;114(Pt 4):1803–1817. [PubMed]
  • Parks RW, Loewenstein DA, Dodrill KL, Barker WW, Yoshii F, Chang JY, Emran A, Apicella A, Sheramata WA, Duara R. Cerebral metabolic effects of a verbal fluency test: a PET scan study. J Clin Exp Neuropsychol. 1988 Oct;10(5):565–575. [PubMed]
  • Decety J, Sjöholm H, Ryding E, Stenberg G, Ingvar DH. The cerebellum participates in mental activity: tomographic measurements of regional cerebral blood flow. Brain Res. 1990 Dec 10;535(2):313–317. [PubMed]
  • Cuenod CA, Bookheimer SY, Hertz-Pannier L, Zeffiro TA, Theodore WH, Le Bihan D. Functional MRI during word generation, using conventional equipment: a potential tool for language localization in the clinical environment. Neurology. 1995 Oct;45(10):1821–1827. [PubMed]
  • Yurgelun-Todd DA, Waternaux CM, Cohen BM, Gruber SA, English CD, Renshaw PF. Functional magnetic resonance imaging of schizophrenic patients and comparison subjects during word production. Am J Psychiatry. 1996 Feb;153(2):200–205. [PubMed]
  • McCarthy G, Blamire AM, Rothman DL, Gruetter R, Shulman RG. Echo-planar magnetic resonance imaging studies of frontal cortex activation during word generation in humans. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1993 Jun 1;90(11):4952–4956. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  • Hinke RM, Hu X, Stillman AE, Kim SG, Merkle H, Salmi R, Ugurbil K. Functional magnetic resonance imaging of Broca's area during internal speech. Neuroreport. 1993 Jun;4(6):675–678. [PubMed]
  • Rueckert L, Appollonio I, Grafman J, Jezzard P, Johnson R, Jr, Le Bihan D, Turner R. Magnetic resonance imaging functional activation of left frontal cortex during covert word production. J Neuroimaging. 1994 Apr;4(2):67–70. [PubMed]
  • Kimura D. Sex differences in the brain. Sci Am. 1992 Sep;267(3):118–125. [PubMed]
  • Yetkin FZ, Hammeke TA, Swanson SJ, Morris GL, Mueller WM, McAuliffe TL, Haughton VM. A comparison of functional MR activation patterns during silent and audible language tasks. AJNR Am J Neuroradiol. 1995 May;16(5):1087–1092. [PubMed]
  • Friston KJ, Frith CD, Liddle PF, Frackowiak RS. Comparing functional (PET) images: the assessment of significant change. J Cereb Blood Flow Metab. 1991 Jul;11(4):690–699. [PubMed]
  • Worsley KJ, Evans AC, Marrett S, Neelin P. A three-dimensional statistical analysis for CBF activation studies in human brain. J Cereb Blood Flow Metab. 1992 Nov;12(6):900–918. [PubMed]
  • Friston KJ, Holmes A, Poline JB, Price CJ, Frith CD. Detecting activations in PET and fMRI: levels of inference and power. Neuroimage. 1996 Dec;4(3 Pt 1):223–235. [PubMed]
  • Hutchinson M, Rusinek H, Nenov VI, Feinberg DA, Johnson G. Segmentation analysis in functional MRI: activation sensitivity and gray-matter specificity of RARE and FLASH. J Magn Reson Imaging. 1997 Mar-Apr;7(2):361–364. [PubMed]
  • Friston KJ, Williams S, Howard R, Frackowiak RS, Turner R. Movement-related effects in fMRI time-series. Magn Reson Med. 1996 Mar;35(3):346–355. [PubMed]
  • Frith CD, Friston K, Liddle PF, Frackowiak RS. Willed action and the prefrontal cortex in man: a study with PET. Proc Biol Sci. 1991 Jun 22;244(1311):241–246. [PubMed]
  • Binder JR, Swanson SJ, Hammeke TA, Morris GL, Mueller WM, Fischer M, Benbadis S, Frost JA, Rao SM, Haughton VM. Determination of language dominance using functional MRI: a comparison with the Wada test. Neurology. 1996 Apr;46(4):978–984. [PubMed]
  • Shaywitz BA, Shaywitz SE, Pugh KR, Constable RT, Skudlarski P, Fulbright RK, Bronen RA, Fletcher JM, Shankweiler DP, Katz L, et al. Sex differences in the functional organization of the brain for language. Nature. 1995 Feb 16;373(6515):607–609. [PubMed]

Articles from Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery, and Psychiatry are provided here courtesy of BMJ Group


Related citations in PubMed

See reviews...See all...

Cited by other articles in PMC

See all...


  • MedGen
    Related information in MedGen
  • PubMed
    PubMed citations for these articles

Recent Activity

Your browsing activity is empty.

Activity recording is turned off.

Turn recording back on

See more...