Co-localization of stroop and syntactic ambiguity resolution in Broca's area: implications for the neural basis of sentence processing

J Cogn Neurosci. 2009 Dec;21(12):2434-44. doi: 10.1162/jocn.2008.21179.


For over a century, a link between left prefrontal cortex and language processing has been accepted, yet the precise characterization of this link remains elusive. Recent advances in both the study of sentence processing and the neuroscientific study of frontal lobe function suggest an intriguing possibility: The demands to resolve competition between incompatible characterizations of a linguistic stimulus may recruit top-down cognitive control processes mediated by prefrontal cortex. We use functional magnetic resonance imaging to test the hypothesis that individuals use shared prefrontal neural circuitry during two very different tasks-color identification under Stroop conflict and sentence comprehension under conditions of syntactic ambiguity-both of which putatively rely on cognitive control processes. We report the first demonstration of within-subject overlap in neural responses to syntactic and nonsyntactic conflict. These findings serve to clarify the role of Broca's area in, and the neural and psychological organization of, the language processing system.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain Mapping*
  • Color Perception / physiology
  • Comprehension / physiology*
  • Discrimination, Psychological / physiology*
  • Female
  • Frontal Lobe / blood supply
  • Frontal Lobe / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted / methods
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods
  • Male
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Oxygen / blood
  • Photic Stimulation / methods
  • Psycholinguistics
  • Reaction Time / physiology
  • Semantics*
  • Young Adult


  • Oxygen