Cerebral interregional correlations of associative language processing: a positron emission tomography activation study using fluorine-18 fluorodeoxyglucose
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Even though there have been numerous positron emission tomography (PET) activation studies on the perfusional and metabolic bases of language processing, little is known about the intracerebral functional network of language and cognitive processes. It was the aim of this study to investigate the cerebral interregional correlations during voluntary word association versus word repetition in healthy subjects to gain insight into the functional connectivity of associative speech processing. Due to individual variability in functional anatomy, the study protocol was designed as an averaged single-subject study. Eight healthy volunteers performed a verbal association task during fluorine-18 fluorodeoxyglucose (18F-FDG) PET scanning. Two different tasks were performed in randomized order: (a) word repetition (after auditory presentation of nouns) as a control condition, and (b) word association (after auditory presentation of nouns) as a specific semantic activation. The regional metabolic rate of glucose (rMRGlu) was calculated after brain regionalization [112 regions of interest on individual 3D flash magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)] and PET/MRI realignment. Statistical analysis was performed for comparison of association and repetition and for calculation of interregional correlation coefficients during both tasks. Compared with word repetition, word association was associated with significant increases in rMRGlu in the left prefrontal cortex, the left frontal operculum (Broca’s area) and the left insula, indicating involvement of these areas in associative language processing. Decreased rMRGlu was found in the left posterior cingulum during word association. During word repetition, highly significant negative correlations were found between the left prefrontal cortex, the contralateral cortex areas and the ipsilateral posterior cingulum. These negative correlations were almost completely eliminated during the association task, suggesting a functional decoupling of the strict intercorrelation pattern.
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