RESEARCH SUPPORT, U.S. GOV'T, P.H.S.
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Functional MRI of language processing: dependence on input modality and temporal lobe epilepsy.

Epilepsia 2001 October
PURPOSE: Functional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) using two language-comprehension tasks was evaluated to determine its ability to lateralize language processing and identify regions that must be spared in surgery.

METHODS: Two parallel cognitive language tasks, one using auditory input and the other visual input, were tested in a group of control subjects and in temporal lobe epilepsy patients who were candidates for surgical intervention. The patient studies provide an opportunity to compare functional MRI language localization with that obtained using Wada testing and electrocorticography. All of the patients in this study underwent all three procedures and a battery of neuropsychological testing. Such studies provide an opportunity not only to validate the fMRI findings but also, by comparing the patient results with those obtained in control subjects, to provide insight into the impact of a pathology such as epilepsy on cortical organization or functional patterns of activation.

RESULTS: The results reveal both modality-dependent and modality-independent language-processing patterns for visual versus auditory task presentation. The visual language task activated distinct sites in Broca's area, BA (Brodmann area) 44 that were not activated in the auditory language task. The auditory language task strongly activated contralateral right BA22-21 area (homologous to Wernicke's area on the left). Language lateralization scores were significantly stronger for visual than for auditory task presentation. The conjunction of activation from the two different input modalities (modality-independent areas) likely highlights regions that perform more abstract computations (e.g., syntactic or pragmatic processing) in language processing. Modality-specific areas (e.g., right Wernicke, left fusiform gyrus, Broca BA44, supramarginal gyrus), appear to cope with the computations relevant to making contact with these more abstract dimensions. Patients showed recruitment of contralateral homologous language areas (p < 0.005) that was significantly above that found in a normal control group. Extra- and intraoperative cortical stimulations were concordant with the fMRI data in eight of 10 cases. The fMRI lateralization scores were also consistent with the Wada testing in 8/10 patients.

CONCLUSIONS: The fMRI results demonstrate that the epileptic brain may be a progressive model for cortical plasticity.

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