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Continuum (Minneap Minn). 2015 Jun;21(3 Behavioral Neurology and Neuropsychiatry):627-45. doi: 10.1212/

Language dysfunction.



Language is a complex brain function requiring a number of cognitive processes and is commonly affected by both focal brain lesions and neurodegenerative disorders. This article reviews the neuroanatomic basis of language, assessment techniques of language function, and disorders affecting language.


Recent functional imaging studies of language suggest that the classic connectionist models of language function may be incomplete. These studies and those analyzing how the primary progressive aphasias (PPAs) affect language function suggest that language processing is completed through large-scale distributed networks. The use of structured, standardized techniques allows for the diagnosis of focal brain lesions affecting language function as well as neurodegenerative and psychogenic causes of language dysfunction.


By employing an accurate, neuroanatomically grounded language assessment technique, the neurologist can reach the correct diagnosis and implement the optimal management plan for patients with language disorders. Neurologists should also be aware of new information regarding the neural basis of language function as our understanding of the complex cognitive process of language continues to evolve.

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