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Annu Rev Neurosci. 2002;25:151-88. Epub 2002 Mar 19.

Functional MRI of language: new approaches to understanding the cortical organization of semantic processing.

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Brain Mapping Center, UCLA School of Medicine, 90095, USA.


Until recently, our understanding of how language is organized in the brain depended on analysis of behavioral deficits in patients with fortuitously placed lesions. The availability of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) for in vivo analysis of the normal brain has revolutionized the study of language. This review discusses three lines of fMRI research into how the semantic system is organized in the adult brain. These are (a) the role of the left inferior frontal lobe in semantic processing and dissociations from other frontal lobe language functions, (b) the organization of categories of objects and concepts in the temporal lobe, and (c) the role of the right hemisphere in comprehending contextual and figurative meaning. Together, these lines of research broaden our understanding of how the brain stores, retrieves, and makes sense of semantic information, and they challenge some commonly held notions of functional modularity in the language system.

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