Brain Activation Modulated by Sentence Comprehension

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Science  04 Oct 1996:
Vol. 274, Issue 5284, pp. 114-116
DOI: 10.1126/science.274.5284.114


The comprehension of visually presented sentences produces brain activation that increases with the linguistic complexity of the sentence. The volume of neural tissue activated (number of voxels) during sentence comprehension was measured with echo-planar functional magnetic resonance imaging. The modulation of the volume of activation by sentence complexity was observed in a network of four areas: the classical left-hemisphere language areas (the left laterosuperior temporal cortex, or Wernicke's area, and the left inferior frontal gyrus, or Broca's area) and their homologous right-hemisphere areas, although the right areas had much smaller volumes of activation than did the left areas. These findings generally indicate that the amount of neural activity that a given cognitive process engenders is dependent on the computational demand that the task imposes.