We monitored regional cerebral activity with BOLD fMRI while subjects were presented written sentences differing in their grammatical structure (subject-relative or object-relative center-embedded clauses) and their short-term memory demands (short or long antecedent-gap linkages). A core region of left posterior superior temporal cortex was recruited during all sentence conditions in comparison to a pseudofont baseline, suggesting that this area plays a central role in sustaining comprehension that is common to all sentences. Right posterior superior temporal cortex was recruited during sentences with long compared to short antecedent-gap linkages regardless of grammatical structure, suggesting that this brain region supports passive short-term memory during sentence comprehension. Recruitment of left inferior frontal cortex was most clearly associated with sentences that featured both an object-relative clause and a long antecedent-gap linkage, suggesting that this region supports the cognitive resources required to maintain long-distance syntactic dependencies during the comprehension of grammatically complex sentences.
Copyright 2001 Wiley-Liss, Inc.