The language connectome: new pathways, new concepts

Neuroscientist. 2014 Oct;20(5):453-67. doi: 10.1177/1073858413513502. Epub 2013 Dec 15.


The field of the neurobiology of language is experiencing a paradigm shift in which the predominant Broca-Wernicke-Geschwind language model is being revised in favor of models that acknowledge that language is processed within a distributed cortical and subcortical system. While it is important to identify the brain regions that are part of this system, it is equally important to establish the anatomical connectivity supporting their functional interactions. The most promising framework moving forward is one in which language is processed via two interacting "streams"--a dorsal and ventral stream--anchored by long association fiber pathways, namely the superior longitudinal fasciculus/arcuate fasciculus, uncinate fasciculus, inferior longitudinal fasciculus, inferior fronto-occipital fasciculus, and two less well-established pathways, the middle longitudinal fasciculus and extreme capsule. In this article, we review the most up-to-date literature on the anatomical connectivity and function of these pathways. We also review and emphasize the importance of the often overlooked cortico-subcortical connectivity for speech via the "motor stream" and associated fiber systems, including a recently identified cortical association tract, the frontal aslant tract. These pathways anchor the distributed cortical and subcortical systems that implement speech and language in the human brain.

Keywords: arcuate fasciculus; cortico-bulbar tract; cortico-striatal loops; dorsal stream; language; motor stream; ventral stream; white matter.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / anatomy & histology*
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Connectome*
  • Humans
  • Language*
  • Models, Neurological
  • Neural Pathways / anatomy & histology
  • Neural Pathways / physiology