Developmental aspects of language processing: fMRI of verbal fluency in children and adults

Hum Brain Mapp. 2003 Mar;18(3):176-85. doi: 10.1002/hbm.10091.


We examined developmental differences, in location and extent of fMRI language activation maps, between adults and children while performing a semantic fluency task. We studied 29 adults and 16 children with echo planar imaging BOLD fMRI at 1.5 T using covert semantic verbal fluency (generation of words to categories compared to rest) using a block design. Post task testing was administered to assess performance. Individual data were analyzed with an a priori region of interest approach from t maps (t = 4) and asymmetry indices (AI). Group studies were analyzed using SPM 99 (Wellcome, UK; fixed effect, corrected P < 0.0001). We found no significant differences in location or laterality of activation between adults and children for a semantic verbal fluency task. Adults activated more pixels than children in left inferior frontal gyrus and left middle frontal gyrus, but AIs were the similar across ages (r(2) < 0.09). Extent or laterality of activation was not affected by performance (r(2) < 0.15). The brain areas that process semantic verbal fluency are similar in children and adults. The laterality of activation does not change appreciably with age and appears to be strongly lateralized by age 7 years.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping*
  • Child
  • Female
  • Functional Laterality / physiology
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Language
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Visual Perception / physiology*