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Brain. 2005 Dec;128(Pt 12):2858-71. Epub 2005 Oct 18.

Right anterior superior temporal activation predicts auditory sentence comprehension following aphasic stroke.

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Wellcome Department of Imaging Neuroscience, Institute of Neurology, London, UK.


Previous studies have suggested that recovery of speech comprehension after left hemisphere infarction may depend on a mechanism in the right hemisphere. However, the role that distinct right hemisphere regions play in speech comprehension following left hemisphere stroke has not been established. Here, we used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to investigate narrative speech activation in 18 neurologically normal subjects and 17 patients with left hemisphere stroke and a history of aphasia. Activation for listening to meaningful stories relative to meaningless reversed speech was identified in the normal subjects and in each patient. Second level analyses were then used to investigate how story activation changed with the patients' auditory sentence comprehension skills and surprise story recognition memory tests post-scanning. Irrespective of lesion site, performance on tests of auditory sentence comprehension was positively correlated with activation in the right lateral superior temporal region, anterior to primary auditory cortex. In addition, when the stroke spared the left temporal cortex, good performance on tests of auditory sentence comprehension was also correlated with the left posterior superior temporal cortex (Wernicke's area). In distinct contrast to this, good story recognition memory predicted left inferior frontal and right cerebellar activation. The implication of this double dissociation in the effects of auditory sentence comprehension and story recognition memory is that left frontal and left temporal activations are dissociable. Our findings strongly support the role of the right temporal lobe in processing narrative speech and, in particular, auditory sentence comprehension following left hemisphere aphasic stroke. In addition, they highlight the importance of the right anterior superior temporal cortex where the response was dissociated from that in the left posterior temporal lobe.

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