DTI tractography of the human brain's language pathways

Cereb Cortex. 2008 Nov;18(11):2471-82. doi: 10.1093/cercor/bhn011. Epub 2008 Feb 14.


Diffusion Tensor Imaging (DTI) tractography has been used to detect leftward asymmetries in the arcuate fasciculus, a pathway that links temporal and inferior frontal language cortices. In this study, we more specifically define this asymmetry with respect to both anatomy and function. Twenty right-handed male subjects were scanned with DTI, and the arcuate fasciculus was reconstructed using deterministic tractography. The arcuate was divided into 2 segments with different hypothesized functions, one terminating in the posterior superior temporal gyrus (STG) and another terminating in the middle temporal gyrus (MTG). Tractography results were compared with peak activation coordinates from prior functional neuroimaging studies of phonology, lexical-semantic processing, and prosodic processing to assign putative functions to these pathways. STG terminations were strongly left lateralized and overlapped with phonological activations in the left but not the right hemisphere, suggesting that only the left hemisphere phonological cortex is directly connected with the frontal lobe via the arcuate fasciculus. MTG terminations were also strongly left lateralized, overlapping with left lateralized lexical-semantic activations. Smaller right hemisphere MTG terminations overlapped with right lateralized prosodic activations. We combine our findings with a recent model of brain language processing to explain 6 aphasia syndromes.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aphasia / pathology*
  • Diffusion Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Frontal Lobe / cytology*
  • Functional Laterality
  • Humans
  • Language*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neural Pathways / cytology
  • Phonetics
  • Semantics
  • Speech Disorders / pathology
  • Temporal Lobe / cytology*
  • Young Adult