Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Brain imaging reveals new language circuits

14.12.2004


The language network of the brain seemed simpler in the past. One brain area was recognized to be critical for the production of language, another for its comprehension. A dense bundle of nerve fibers connected the two.



But there have always been naysayers who pointed to evidence that failed to fit this tidy picture. Now a study employing a powerful variant of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) confirms these suspicions. The study will be published December 13, 2004 in the online edition of Annals of Neurology. "We were surprised that the two classical language areas were densely connected to a third area, whose presence had already been suspected but whose connections with the classical network were unknown," said lead author Marco Catani, M.D., of the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s College London.

The authors dubbed this language area "Geschwind’s territory" in honor of the American neurologist Norman Geschwind who championed its linguistic significance decades ago.


Language is generated and understood in the cortex, the outermost covering of the brain. Paul Broca and Carl Wernicke, 19th Century neurologists, noted that damage to specific cortical areas, which came to bear their names, produced primarily language production or language processing disorders, but not both. A large bundle of nerve fibers was found to connect Broca’s and Wernicke’s areas, and damage to this pathway also produced language disorders, or aphasias.

However, even in the 19th Century, there were bits of evidence that other brain areas play some role in language, though these have remained enigmatic, as scientists could not use animal models to probe language networks in the same way they could visual or movement networks in the brain. In the last few decades, advanced brain imaging techniques such as CT, PET, and more recently, MRI have allowed scientists to begin studying these areas in living humans.

Standard MRI, by itself a powerful innovation, shows the major tissue structures of the brain. A variant called "functional" MRI even allows researchers to identify which areas are being used during different tasks, including producing and comprehending language. Diffusion tensor (DT) MRI has gained prominence in the past decade because it reveals in greater detail the nerve fiber connections through which different brain regions form communication networks.

With DT-MRI, Catani and his colleagues found a separate, roundabout route that connects Broca’s and Wernicke’s areas via a region in the parietal lobe of the cortex, which Geschwind had pointed out as an important language region already in the 1960s.

"There are clues that the parallel pathway network we found is important for the acquisition of language in childhood," said Catani. "Geschwind’s territory is the last area in the brain to mature, the completion of its maturation coinciding with the development of reading and writing skills. An important future line of study will be to examine the maturation of this area and its connections in the context of autism and dyslexia."

The fact that these pathways appear to exist – in more rudimentary forms – in the brains of monkeys may also have bearing on the search for the evolutionary origins of language. "These data suggest that language evolved, in part, from changes in pre-existing networks, not through the appearance of new brain structures," said Catani. "This method provides another example of the remarkable versatility of MRI technology," said Marsel Mesulam, M.D., of Northwestern University in Chicago, Illinois, whose editorial will accompany the print publication of the article.

"It is theoretically possible to combine diffusion tensor imaging with functional MRI so as to reveal the connectivity of brain areas with identified specializations," said Mesulam. "This method can be applied anywhere in the brain. Revealing the connections of the human brain will constitute the next frontier in the field of cognitive neurology."

David Greenberg | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.interscience.wiley.com/journal/ana
http://www.wiley.com

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Multi-institutional collaboration uncovers how molecular machines assemble
02.12.2016 | Salk Institute

nachricht Fertilized egg cells trigger and monitor loss of sperm’s epigenetic memory
02.12.2016 | IMBA - Institut für Molekulare Biotechnologie der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften GmbH

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Novel silicon etching technique crafts 3-D gradient refractive index micro-optics

A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.

Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...

Im Focus: Quantum Particles Form Droplets

In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.

“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...

Im Focus: MADMAX: Max Planck Institute for Physics takes up axion research

The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.

The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...

Im Focus: Molecules change shape when wet

Broadband rotational spectroscopy unravels structural reshaping of isolated molecules in the gas phase to accommodate water

In two recent publications in the Journal of Chemical Physics and in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, researchers around Melanie Schnell from the Max...

Im Focus: Fraunhofer ISE Develops Highly Compact, High Frequency DC/DC Converter for Aviation

The efficiency of power electronic systems is not solely dependent on electrical efficiency but also on weight, for example, in mobile systems. When the weight of relevant components and devices in airplanes, for instance, is reduced, fuel savings can be achieved and correspondingly greenhouse gas emissions decreased. New materials and components based on gallium nitride (GaN) can help to reduce weight and increase the efficiency. With these new materials, power electronic switches can be operated at higher switching frequency, resulting in higher power density and lower material costs.

Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE together with partners have investigated how these materials can be used to make power...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ICTM Conference 2017: Production technology for turbomachine manufacturing of the future

16.11.2016 | Event News

Innovation Day Laser Technology – Laser Additive Manufacturing

01.11.2016 | Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

UTSA study describes new minimally invasive device to treat cancer and other illnesses

02.12.2016 | Medical Engineering

Plasma-zapping process could yield trans fat-free soybean oil product

02.12.2016 | Agricultural and Forestry Science

What do Netflix, Google and planetary systems have in common?

02.12.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>