Language lateralization in phonological, semantic and orthographic tasks: a slow evoked potential study

Chiara Spironelli, Alessandro Angrilli
Behavioural Brain Research 2006 December 15, 175 (2): 296-304
Most of literature on language has shown how different word-classes activate distinct neural networks within linguistic cortical areas. The present investigation aimed to demonstrate that, by means of slow evoked potentials and using the same set of words in different tasks, it is possible to activate cortical networks that are spatially and temporally distinguished. Twenty healthy subjects had to evaluate, in a word pair matching session, whether two words rhymed (phonological task), were semantically related (semantic task) or were written in the same letter case (orthographic task). Slow wave amplitude was computed in three relevant time windows: the last 0.5 s of first word presentation (W1), the initial contingent negative variation (iCNV) and the terminal CNV (tCNV). During W1 and iCNV intervals, both the orthographic and the phonological tasks were left lateralized. Furthermore, the phonological task was more lateralized than the orthographic because of a greater inhibition of the right hemisphere, whereas the orthographic task was characterized by a greater bilateral posterior activation. During the tCNV, only the phonological task remained left lateralized while orthographic and semantic were bilaterally distributed. Although the use of the same set of words tends to activate widely overlapped networks, in the present research task manipulation was effective in demonstrating task dependent differences in brain lateralization. Thus, the present paradigm and the adopted tasks are especially suited for studying deficit and recovery of language in patients affected by linguistic disorders such as developmental dyslexia and aphasia.

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