The impact of low-grade brain tumors on verbal fluency performance

J Clin Exp Neuropsychol. 2004 Sep;26(6):750-8. doi: 10.1080/13803390490509376.


Verbal fluency has traditionally represented left hemispheric function, based on large acquired lesion studies. However, recent functional imaging studies have demonstrated bilateral hemispheric activation during phonemic and semantic word generation tasks. We examined 25 left hemisphere (LH) and 26 right hemisphere (RH) low-grade brain tumor patients on semantic and phonemic fluency. Patients were also assigned to a combined posterior (left and right) group (n = 26) or a combined posterior (left and right) group (n = 20) and compared with normal controls (NC; n = 57). We hypothesized that there would be greater left than right hemispheric phonemic and semantic fluency impairments. We also hypothesized that there would be greater anterior, specifically left anterior, than posterior impairments on phonemic fluency given their respective retrieval and initiation requirements. Finally, it was predicted that the LH patients, particularly the left posterior group, would exhibit the greatest semantic fluency impairments. Results indicated that on semantic fluency, the LH group produced significantly fewer semantic fluency responses compared to the RH group, but the expected left posterior and left frontal group differences were not found. There were no significant patient group differences associated with phonemic fluency. While we encountered semantic fluency impairments in this brain tumor population, we did not find the extensive deficits associated with the distinct or localized brain regions previously reported in the literature.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain Neoplasms / physiopathology*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Cerebral Cortex / anatomy & histology
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiopathology
  • Female
  • Functional Laterality / physiology
  • Humans
  • Language Tests
  • Linguistics
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Verbal Behavior / physiology*
  • Verbal Learning / physiology*
  • Word Association Tests