The extended language network: a meta-analysis of neuroimaging studies on text comprehension

Hum Brain Mapp. 2008 May;29(5):581-93. doi: 10.1002/hbm.20422.


Language processing in context requires more than merely comprehending words and sentences. Important subprocesses are inferences for bridging successive utterances, the use of background knowledge and discourse context, and pragmatic interpretations. The functional neuroanatomy of these text comprehension processes has only recently been investigated. Although there is evidence for right-hemisphere contributions, reviews have implicated the left lateral prefrontal cortex, left temporal regions beyond Wernicke's area, and the left dorso-medial prefrontal cortex (dmPFC) for text comprehension. To objectively confirm this extended language network and to evaluate the respective contribution of right hemisphere regions, meta-analyses of 23 neuroimaging studies are reported here. The analyses used replicator dynamics based on activation likelihood estimates. Independent of the baseline, the anterior temporal lobes (aTL) were active bilaterally. In addition, processing of coherent compared with incoherent text engaged the dmPFC and the posterior cingulate cortex. Right hemisphere activations were seen most notably in the analysis of contrasts testing specific subprocesses, such as metaphor comprehension. These results suggest task dependent contributions for the lateral PFC and the right hemisphere. Most importantly, they confirm the role of the aTL and the fronto-medial cortex for language processing in context.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis

MeSH terms

  • Brain / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping*
  • Comprehension / physiology*
  • Functional Laterality / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Language*
  • Speech Perception / physiology