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Neurosci Res. 2003 Jul;46(3):273-9.

Sentence processing is uniquely human.

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  • 1Department of Cognitive and Behavioral Science, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, The University of Tokyo, Komaba, 3-8-1 Komaba, Meguro-ku, 153-8902, Tokyo, Japan.


In this article, we will focus on three fundamental issues concerning language processing in the human brain, and update recent advances made by functional neuroimaging and magnetic stimulation studies of language. First, we will provide the first experimental evidence that the neural basis of sentence comprehension is indeed specialized. Specifically, our recent functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) study has clarified that the human left prefrontal cortex (PFC) is more specialized in the syntactic processes of sentence comprehension than other domain-general processes such as short-term memory. Second, the distinction between explicit and implicit syntactic processes will be clarified, based on our fMRI studies that elucidate syntactic specialization in the left PFC. Third, we will advance a hypothesis stating that distinct subregions of the left PFC are recruited for the syntactic integration of lexico-semantic information. The current direction of research in the neuroscience of language is beginning to reveal the uniqueness of the human mind.

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