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Better brain imaging helps surgeons avoid damage to language functions

ds with related meanings or similar rhyming patterns.

"These word processing tasks were chosen because direct comparisons of meaning and rhyme processing have been shown to elicit robust activation in two distinct regions of the brain, each of which are critical to language function, "said study co-author Kathleen McDermott, an assistant professor of psychology in Arts & Sciences at Washington University.

During the fMRI test, patients are provided with a list of logically related words, such as doze, pillow, rest and dream, and later asked if a non-presented but related word, such as sleep, had been part of the presented list. Most falsely recall that the word sleep had been part of the original list. Another version of the test asks patients to recall if a particular word was presented among a list of closely rhyming words.

Use of both the rhyming and meaning-related lists is important because studies show the brain typically relies on separate and distinct regions to process each of these tasks. Specifically, the processing of word meanings activates a brain region known as Wernicke's area, while the processing of word rhymes activates another important language center known as Broca's area, McDermott said,

McDermott and colleagues at Washington University have spent nearly a decade using similar lists of related words to study false memories, a phenomenon in which normal cognitive processes cause people to remember things that never actually happened. In previous studies, McDermott used fMRI to document which areas of the brain are involved in the creation of false memories; eventually, it became clear that fMRI images of false memory processing also offered very robust and detailed representations of language centers, and that these results could be obtained on an individual patient basis.

McDermott and Jason Watson, a research associate in psychology, began working with neurosurgeons and radiologists at the Washingt
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Contact: Gerry Everding
gerry_everding@wustl.edu
314-935-6375
Washington University in St. Louis
11-Nov-2003


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