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Brain Res. 2007 Feb 16;1133(1):145-57. Epub 2006 Dec 19.

Determining language laterality by fMRI and dichotic listening.

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Leibniz Institute for Neurobiology, Brenneckestr. 6, 39118 Magdeburg, Germany.


For imaging studies on hemispheric specialization of the human brain, data about known functional asymmetries other than handedness would be valuable for a reliable interpretation of lateralized activation in individuals or groups of subjects. As certain aspects of language processing are observed to be a function of primarily the left, it can be used as a reference for other asymmetric processes such as sensory or cognitive skills. For analyzing language laterality, there are a variety of methods, but these differ in application or accuracy. In this study, we tested the reliability of two widely used methods - dichotic listening and fMRI - to determine language dominance in 30 individual subjects. The German adaptation of a dichotic listening test (Hättig, H., Beier, M., 2000. FRWT: a dichotic listening test for clinical and scientific contexts, Zeitschr f Neuropsychologie 11. 233-245.) classified 54% of the 26 right-handed subjects as left hemispheric dominant. The results of the fMRI paradigm (Fernández, G., de Greiff, A., von Oertzen, J., et al., 2001. Language mapping in less than 15 min: real-time functional MRI during routine clinical investigation. Neuroimage 14, 585-594.) tested on the same subjects, however, classified 92% of the right-handed subjects as left dominant. The main reason for this discrepancy was that the ear dominance score of many subjects in the dichotic listening test was too low to determine a reliable ear advantage. As a consequence, this specific dichotic listening test cannot be used to determine language laterality in individual subjects. On the other hand, the fMRI results are consistent with numerous studies showing left dominant language processing in more than 90% of right-handers. In some subjects, however, language laterality critically depends on the areas used to determine the laterality index.

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