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Neuroimage. 2006 Aug 1;32(1):388-99. Epub 2006 May 2.

Hemispheric asymmetries in language-related pathways: a combined functional MRI and tractography study.

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Department of Clinical and Experimental Epilepsy, Institute of Neurology, University College London, Queen Square, London, WC1N 3BG, UK.


Functional lateralization is a feature of human brain function, most apparent in the typical left-hemisphere specialization for language. A number of anatomical and imaging studies have examined whether structural asymmetries underlie this functional lateralization. We combined functional MRI (fMRI) and diffusion-weighted imaging (DWI) with tractography to study 10 healthy right-handed subjects. Three language fMRI paradigms were used to define language-related regions in inferior frontal and superior temporal regions. A probabilistic tractography technique was then employed to delineate the connections of these functionally defined regions. We demonstrated consistent connections between Broca's and Wernicke's areas along the superior longitudinal fasciculus bilaterally but more extensive fronto-temporal connectivity on the left than the right. Both tract volumes and mean fractional anisotropy (FA) were significantly greater on the left than the right. We also demonstrated a correlation between measures of structure and function, with subjects with more lateralized fMRI activation having a more highly lateralized mean FA of their connections. These structural asymmetries are in keeping with the lateralization of language function and indicate the major structural connections underlying this function.

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