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Brain Lang. 2002 Mar;80(3):296-313.

Sentence processing strategies in healthy seniors with poor comprehension: an fMRI study.

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Department of Neurology, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, USA.


We used fMRI to examine patterns of brain recruitment in 22 healthy seniors, half of whom had selective comprehension difficulty for grammatically complex sentences. We found significantly reduced recruitment of left posterolateral temporal [Brodmann area (BA) 22/21] and left inferior frontal (BA 44/6) cortex in poor comprehenders compared to the healthy seniors with good sentence comprehension, cortical regions previously associated with language comprehension and verbal working memory, respectively. The poor comprehenders demonstrated increased activation of left prefrontal (BA 9/46), right dorsal inferior frontal (BA 44/6), and left posterior cingulate (BA 31/23) cortices for the grammatically simpler sentences that they understood. We hypothesize that these brain regions support an alternate, nongrammatical strategy for processing complex configurations of symbolic information. Moreover, these observations emphasize the crucial role of the left perisylvian network for grammatically guided sentence processing in subjects with good comprehension.

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