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Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience

July 1998, Vol. 10, No. 4, Pages 541-552
(doi: 10.1162/089892998562843)
© 1998 Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Effects of Syntactic Structure and Propositional Number on Patterns of Regional Cerebral Blood Flow
Article PDF (540.25 KB)

Positron emission tomography (PET) was used to determine regional cerebral blood flow (rCBF) as a function of the syntactic form and propositional density of sentences. rCBF increased in the left pars opercularis, part of Broca's area, when subjects processed syntactically more complex sentences. There were no differences in rCBF in the perisylvian association cortex traditionally associated with language processing when subjects made plausibility judgments about sentences with two propositions as compared to sentences with one proposition, but rCBF increased in infero-posterior brain regions. These results suggest that there is a specialization of neural tissue in Broca's area for constructing aspects of the syntactic form of sentences to determine sentence meaning. They also suggest that this specialization is separate from the brain systems that are involved in utilizing the meaning of a sentence that has been understood to accomplish a task.