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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2007 Oct 23;104(43):17157-62. Epub 2007 Oct 17.

Imaging cortical dynamics of language processing with the event-related optical signal.

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Beckman Institute, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 405 North Mathews Avenue, Urbana, IL 61801-2325, USA.


Language processing involves the rapid interaction of multiple brain regions. The study of its neurophysiological bases would therefore benefit from neuroimaging techniques combining both good spatial and good temporal resolution. Here we use the event-related optical signal (EROS), a recently developed imaging method, to reveal rapid interactions between left superior/middle temporal cortices (S/MTC) and inferior frontal cortices (IFC) during the processing of semantically or syntactically anomalous sentences. Participants were presented with sentences of these types intermixed with nonanomalous control sentences and were required to judge their acceptability. ERPs were recorded simultaneously with EROS and showed the typical activities that are elicited when processing anomalous stimuli: the N400 and the P600 for semantic and syntactic anomalies, respectively. The EROS response to semantically anomalous words showed increased activity in the S/MTC (corresponding in time with the N400), followed by IFC activity. Syntactically anomalous words evoked a similar sequence, with a temporal-lobe EROS response (corresponding in time with the P600), followed by frontal activity. However, the S/MTC activity corresponding to a semantic anomaly was more ventral than that corresponding to a syntactic anomaly. These data suggest that activation related to anomaly processing in sentences proceeds from temporal to frontal brain regions for both semantic and syntactic anomalies. This first EROS study investigating language processing shows that EROS can be used to image rapid interactions across cortical areas.

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