Brain Structure and Function

, Volume 221, Issue 6, pp 3275–3299 | Cite as

Structural brain aging and speech production: a surface-based brain morphometry study

  • Pascale TremblayEmail author
  • Isabelle Deschamps
Original Article


While there has been a growing number of studies examining the neurofunctional correlates of speech production over the past decade, the neurostructural correlates of this immensely important human behaviour remain less well understood, despite the fact that previous studies have established links between brain structure and behaviour, including speech and language. In the present study, we thus examined, for the first time, the relationship between surface-based cortical thickness (CT) and three different behavioural indexes of sublexical speech production: response duration, reaction times and articulatory accuracy, in healthy young and older adults during the production of simple and complex meaningless sequences of syllables (e.g., /pa–pa-pa/ vs. /pa-ta-ka/). The results show that each behavioural speech measure was sensitive to the complexity of the sequences, as indicated by slower reaction times, longer response durations and decreased articulatory accuracy in both groups for the complex sequences. Older adults produced longer speech responses, particularly during the production of complex sequence. Unique age-independent and age-dependent relationships between brain structure and each of these behavioural measures were found in several cortical and subcortical regions known for their involvement in speech production, including the bilateral anterior insula, the left primary motor area, the rostral supramarginal gyrus, the right inferior frontal sulcus, the bilateral putamen and caudate, and in some region less typically associated with speech production, such as the posterior cingulate cortex.


Speech production Cortical thickness Anterior insula Aging Subcortical volume 



This study was supported by P.T.’s research grants from the “Fonds de la Recherche du Québec Société-Culture”, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (CA), the “Fonds de Recherche du Québec—Santé” (FRQS), and by start-up funds from the “Institut Universitaire en Santé Mentale de Québec” also to P.T. Technical support was provided by the “Consortium d’imagerie en neuroscience et santé mentale de Québec” (CINQ) for protocol development and MRI data acquisition. Their support is gratefully acknowledged. We thank Mylène Bilodeau-Mercure, Anne-Marie Audet and Marc Sato for their help with MRI data acquisition and behavioural data analyses.

Supplementary material

429_2015_1100_MOESM1_ESM.eps (4.1 mb)
Supplementary material S1. Distribution of errors for the young and older adults, separately for the simple and complex sequences, (A) as a function of position in the sequence (first vs. second half), (B) also as a function of position in the sequence, but for each of the six sequence positions, (C) as a function of the category of errors (exchanges, insertion and deletion. (C) more detailed analysis of error types with all 8 categories of errors. (EPS 4187 kb)
429_2015_1100_MOESM2_ESM.eps (22.8 mb)
Supplementary material S2. Mean cortical thickness maps for (A): the young adults, (B) the older adults and C: regions showing a significant age difference (Young > Older, in blue). Results are shown on the group average smoothed white matter folded surface in which dark gray regions represent sulci while pale gray areas represent gyri. (EPS 23344 kb)
429_2015_1100_MOESM3_ESM.eps (2.3 mb)
Supplementary material S3. Scatter plots illustrating the relationship between subcortical structures and complexity effects in response duration as a function of age (young adults: green dots; older adults, pink dots), in the left (top row) and right caudate nuclei (bottom row). (EPS 2360 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre de Recherche de l’Institut Universitaire en Santé Mentale de QuébecQuebecCanada
  2. 2.Département de Réadaptation, Faculté de MédecineUniversité LavalQuebecCanada
  3. 3.Département de RehabilitationUniversité LavalQuebecCanada

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