Journal of neurosurgery | 26 Nov 2014
EF Chang, KP Raygor and MS Berger
Classic models of language organization posited that separate motor and sensory language foci existed in the inferior frontal gyrus (Broca’s area) and superior temporal gyrus (Wernicke’s area), respectively, and that connections between these sites (arcuate fasciculus) allowed for auditory-motor interaction. These theories have predominated for more than a century, but advances in neuroimaging and stimulation mapping have provided a more detailed description of the functional neuroanatomy of language. New insights have shaped modern network-based models of speech processing composed of parallel and interconnected streams involving both cortical and subcortical areas. Recent models emphasize processing in “dorsal” and “ventral” pathways, mediating phonological and semantic processing, respectively. Phonological processing occurs along a dorsal pathway, from the posterosuperior temporal to the inferior frontal cortices. On the other hand, semantic information is carried in a ventral pathway that runs from the temporal pole to the basal occipitotemporal cortex, with anterior connections. Functional MRI has poor positive predictive value in determining critical language sites and should only be used as an adjunct for preoperative planning. Cortical and subcortical mapping should be used to define functional resection boundaries in eloquent areas and remains the clinical gold standard. In tracing the historical advancements in our understanding of speech processing, the authors hope to not only provide practicing neurosurgeons with additional information that will aid in surgical planning and prevent postoperative morbidity, but also underscore the fact that neurosurgeons are in a unique position to further advance our understanding of the anatomy and functional organization of language.
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