Language processing within the striatum: evidence from a PET correlation study in Huntington's disease

Brain. 2008 Apr;131(Pt 4):1046-56. doi: 10.1093/brain/awn036. Epub 2008 Mar 11.


The role of sub-cortical structures in language processing, and more specifically of the striatum, remains controversial. In line with psycholinguistic models stating that language processing implies both the recovery of lexical information and the application of combinatorial rules, the striatum has been claimed to be involved either in the former component or in the latter. The present study reconciles these conflicting views by showing the striatum's involvement in both language processes, depending on distinct striatal sub-regions. Using PET scanning in a model of striatal disorders, namely Huntington's disease (HD), we correlated metabolic data of 31 early stage HD patients regarding different striatal sub-regions with behavioural scores on three rule/lexicon tasks drawn from word morphology, syntax and from a non-linguistic domain, namely arithmetic. Behavioural results reflected impairment on both processing aspects, while deficits predominated on rule application. Both correlated with the left striatum but involved distinct striatal sub-regions. We suggest that the left striatum encompasses linguistic and arithmetic circuits, which differ with respect to their anatomical and functional specification, comprising ventrally located regions dedicated to rule computations and more dorsal portions pertaining to lexical devices.

Trial registration: NCT00190450.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain Mapping / methods
  • Comprehension
  • Corpus Striatum / diagnostic imaging
  • Corpus Striatum / physiopathology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Huntington Disease / diagnostic imaging
  • Huntington Disease / physiopathology
  • Huntington Disease / psychology*
  • Image Interpretation, Computer-Assisted / methods
  • Language Tests
  • Language*
  • Male
  • Mathematics
  • Middle Aged
  • Positron-Emission Tomography

Associated data