Considering I devoted two blog posts (pt.1 & pt.2) to Broca’s area and its role in processing hierarchically organised sequences, I’m happy report the following from a Talking Brains post on Disentangling syntax and intelligibility:
Hierarchical structure building can be achieved without Broca’s area involvement.
I’ve only just finished reading the post and, despite having some thoughts on the topic, I’m going to read the actual paper in question (Disentangling syntax and intelligibility in auditory language comprehension) before commenting. Especially since the authors, Friederici et al, don’t seem to arrive at the same conclusions as the bloggers over at Talking Brains. Still, as far as I can tell, this is only looking at syntactic information within speech, and doesn’t really tell us anything about the processing of hierarchically organised sequences in other linguistic (e.g. written language) and non-linguistic (e.g. tool manufacturing) domains.
Here’s the abstract for the paper in question:
Studies of the neural basis of spoken language comprehension typically focus on aspects of auditory processing by varying signal intelligibility, or on higher-level aspects of language processing such as syntax. Most studies in either of these threads of language research report brain activation including peaks in the superior temporal gyrus (STG) and/or the superior temporal sulcus (STS), but it is not clear why these areas are recruited in functionally different studies. The current fMRI study aims to disentangle the functional neuroanatomy of intelligibility and syntax in an orthogonal design. The data substantiate functional dissociations between STS and STG in the left and right hemispheres: first, manipulations of speech intelligibility yield bilateral mid-anterior STS peak activation, whereas syntactic phrase structure violations elicit strongly left-lateralized mid STG and posterior STS activation. Second, ROI analyses indicate all interactions of speech intelligibility and syntactic correctness to be located in the left frontal and temporal cortex, while the observed right-hemispheric activations reflect less specific responses to intelligibility and syntax. Our data demonstrate that the mid-to-anterior STS activation is associated with increasing speech intelligibility, while the mid-to-posterior STG/STS is more sensitive to syntactic information within the speech.
3.1 What is the dual stream model?
Given these separate anatomical accounts, attributing a function(s) to the arcuate is not clear cut, and any current account is far from the authoritative statement on the matter. Nonetheless, a vast majority of literature does place the arcuate as part of the dual stream model of speech processing, although its exact role within these neural networks is still being disputed – and largely depends on which anatomical account you prescribe to.
The basic assumption of dual stream accounts is that phonological networks interact with both conceptual-semantic and motor-articulatory systems, leading to a distinction between the neural networks that process this speech information. These separate interactions are summarised under two processing streams: the dorsal stream and the ventral stream (Hickok and Poeppel, 2007). Connecting phonological networks with conceptual-semantic systems, using structures in the superior and middle portions of the temporal lobe, is the ventral stream. Meanwhile, the dorsal stream is linked via structures in the posterior frontal lobe to the posterior temporal lobe and parietal operculum, which connects phonological networks with motor-articulatory systems (ibid).
Continue reading “The arcuate fasciculus within the dual stream model pt.2”
Originally identified by Reil (1809) and subsequently named by Burdach (1819), the arcuate fasciculus is a white-matter, neural pathway that intersects with both the lateral temporal cortex and frontal cortex via a “dorsal projection that arches around the Sylvain fissure.” (Rilling et al., 2008, pg. 426). Classical hypotheses saw this pathway as a critical component in connecting two centres of language: Broca’s area (speech production) and Wernicke’s area (speech comprehension) (Catani and Mesulam, 2008).
Much of these assumptions were based on a tentative relationship between language-impairment and damaged portions of the brain. Notably, damage to the arcuate fasciculus is implicated in a syndrome known as conduction aphasia, where an individual has difficulty in speech repetition. Often characterised by errors in spontaneous speech, an individual with conduction aphasia will be fully aware of their mistake, retaining well-preserved auditory comprehension and speech production while also being syntactically and grammatically correct (ibid).
Continue reading “Discerning the role of the arcuate fasciculus in speech processing pt.1”