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Neuron. 2008 Sep 11;59(5):695-707. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2008.07.011.

The human thalamus processes syntactic and semantic language violations.

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  • 1Department of Neurology, Charité University Medicine, 12200 Berlin, Germany.


Numerous linguistic operations have been assigned to cortical brain areas, but the contributions of subcortical structures to human language processing are still being discussed. Using simultaneous EEG recordings directly from deep brain structures and the scalp, we show that the human thalamus systematically reacts to syntactic and semantic parameters of auditorily presented language in a temporally interleaved manner in coordination with cortical regions. In contrast, two key structures of the basal ganglia, the globus pallidus internus and the subthalamic nucleus, were not found to be engaged in these processes. We therefore propose that syntactic and semantic language analysis is primarily realized within cortico-thalamic networks, whereas a cohesive basal ganglia network is not involved in these essential operations of language analysis.

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