Cytoarchitectonic area 44 of Broca's region in the left inferior frontal gyrus is known to be involved in several functional domains including language, action and music processing. We investigated whether this functional heterogeneity is reflected in distinct modules within cytoarchitectonically defined left area 44 using meta-analytic connectivity-based parcellation (CBP). This method relies on identifying the whole-brain co-activation pattern for each area 44 voxel across a wide range of functional neuroimaging experiments and subsequently grouping the voxels into distinct clusters based on the similarity of their co-activation patterns. This CBP analysis revealed that five separate clusters exist within left area 44. A post-hoc functional characterization and functional connectivity analysis of these five clusters was then performed. The two posterior clusters were primarily associated with action processes, in particular with phonology and overt speech (posterior-dorsal cluster) and with rhythmic sequencing (posterior-ventral cluster). The three anterior clusters were primarily associated with language and cognition, in particular with working memory (anterior-dorsal cluster), with detection of meaning (anterior-ventral cluster) and with task switching/cognitive control (inferior frontal junction cluster). These five clusters furthermore showed specific and distinct connectivity patterns. The results demonstrate that left area 44 is heterogeneous, thus supporting anatomical data on the molecular architecture of this region, and provide a basis for more specific interpretations of activations localized in area 44.
Keywords: Activation likelihood estimation; Functional connectivity; K-means clustering; Language; Meta-analytic connectivity modeling.
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