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Journal Articles NeuroImage Year : 2006

Meta-analyzing left hemisphere language areas: Phonology, semantics, and sentence processing


The advent of functional neuroimaging has allowed tremendous advances in our understanding of brain-language relationships, in addition to generating substantial empirical data on this subject in the form of thousands of activation peak coordinates reported in a decade of language studies. We performed a large-scale meta-analysis of this literature, aimed at defining the composition of the phonological, semantic, and sentence processing networks in the frontal, temporal, and inferior parietal regions of the left cerebral hemisphere. For each of these language components, activation peaks issued from relevant component-specific contrasts were submitted to a spatial clustering algorithm, which gathered activation peaks on the basis of their relative distance in the MNI space. From a sample of 730 activation peaks extracted from 129 scientific reports selected among 260, we isolated 30 activation clusters, defining the functional fields constituting three distributed networks of frontal and temporal areas and revealing the functional organization of the left hemisphere for language. The functional role of each activation cluster is discussed based on the nature of the tasks in which it was involved. This meta-analysis sheds light on several contemporary issues, notably on the fine-scale functional architecture of the inferior frontal gyrus for phonological and semantic processing, the evidence for an elementary audio-motor loop involved in both comprehension and production of syllables including the primary auditory areas and the motor mouth area, evidence of areas of overlap between phonological and semantic processing, in particular at the location of the selective human voice area that was the seat of partial overlap of the three language components, the evidence of a cortical area in the pars opercularis of the inferior frontal gyrus dedicated to syntactic processing and in the posterior part of the superior temporal gyrus a region selectively activated by sentence and text processing, and the hypothesis that different working memory perception-actions loops are identifiable for the different language components. These results argue for large-scale architecture networks rather than modular organization of language in the left hemisphere.

Dates and versions

hal-01382893 , version 1 (17-10-2016)



Mathieu Vigneau, Virginie Beaucousin, Pierre-Yves Hervé, Hugues Duffau, Fabrice Crivello, et al.. Meta-analyzing left hemisphere language areas: Phonology, semantics, and sentence processing. NeuroImage, 2006, 30 (4), pp.1414 - 1432. ⟨10.1016/j.neuroimage.2005.11.002⟩. ⟨hal-01382893⟩
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