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Brain. 2009 Dec;132(Pt 12):3401-10. doi: 10.1093/brain/awp273.

The left superior temporal gyrus is a shared substrate for auditory short-term memory and speech comprehension: evidence from 210 patients with stroke.

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Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging, Institute of Neurology, UCL,12 Queen Square, London WC1N 3BG, UK.


Competing theories of short-term memory function make specific predictions about the functional anatomy of auditory short-term memory and its role in language comprehension. We analysed high-resolution structural magnetic resonance images from 210 stroke patients and employed a novel voxel based analysis to test the relationship between auditory short-term memory and speech comprehension. Using digit span as an index of auditory short-term memory capacity we found that the structural integrity of a posterior region of the superior temporal gyrus and sulcus predicted auditory short-term memory capacity, even when performance on a range of other measures was factored out. We show that the integrity of this region also predicts the ability to comprehend spoken sentences. Our results therefore support cognitive models that posit a shared substrate between auditory short-term memory capacity and speech comprehension ability. The method applied here will be particularly useful for modelling structure-function relationships within other complex cognitive domains.

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