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Rare Brain Mapping Procedure Provides Unique Picture Of Two Areas Concerned With,,Language Processing and Production

just for speech or language in general. We have now been able to identify that Broca's area is involved in language production, not just speech production but any language spoken or signed. This is the best evidence that it is responsible for language independent of whether that language is expressed through the hands or the voice."

Corina noted the surprising finding that stimulation to areas next Broca's area resulted in movements of the mouth and lips, but not the hands.

"This study also strongly suggests that the supramarginal gyrus plays a critical role in blending semantic and phonetic information," he added, citing the word cat as an example. Cat has semantic features, being a "little furry critter that goes meow." It also has phonemic elements which correspond to the sound which make up the word cat --/k/ and /at/ in English -- and the hand shape and movements for a sign in American Sign Language. The supramarginal gyrus may be pulling together this kind of information, according to Corina.

"Some people have wondered if the human brain has specialized areas of language production and processing," he said. "This work provides new evidence in favor of specialized areas of the brain which are unique to language processing and production. People also have asked if there is a so-called language organ. Our work suggests that there is a whole network of areas responsible for speech and language. Broca's area and the supramarginal gyrus are just two pieces of that network."

The mapping procedure on S.T. lasted about 90 minutes prior to his surgery and was conducted while he was under a local anesthetic. The researchers tested a number of different left hemisphere sites for motor and language impairment by having S.T. do several tasks. He was shown pictures of 49 objects, such as a bird, chair, pig, bed and table, and asked to give the sign for each under normal conditions and while being electrically stimulated a
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Contact: Joel Schwarz
joels@u.washington.edu
206-543-2580
University of Washington
8-Nov-1998


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