The role of the putamen in language: a meta-analytic connectivity modeling study

Brain Struct Funct. 2017 Dec;222(9):3991-4004. doi: 10.1007/s00429-017-1450-y. Epub 2017 Jun 5.


The putamen is a subcortical structure that forms part of the dorsal striatum of basal ganglia, and has traditionally been associated with reinforcement learning and motor control, including speech articulation. However, recent studies have shown involvement of the left putamen in other language functions such as bilingual language processing (Abutalebi et al. 2012) and production, with some authors arguing for functional segregation of anterior and posterior putamen (Oberhuber et al. 2013). A further step in exploring the role of putamen in language would involve identifying the network of coactivations of not only the left, but also the right putamen, given the involvement of right hemisphere in high order language functions (Vigneau et al. 2011). Here, a meta-analytic connectivity modeling technique was used to determine the patterns of coactivation of anterior and bilateral putamen in the language domain. Based on previous evidence, we hypothesized that left putamen coactivations would include brain regions directly associated with language processing, whereas right putamen coactivations would encompass regions involved in broader semantic processes, such as memory and visual imagery. The results showed that left anterior putamen coactivated with clusters predominantly in left hemisphere, encompassing regions directly associated with language processing, a left posterior putamen network spanning both hemispheres, and cerebellum. In right hemisphere, coactivations were in both hemispheres, in regions associated with visual and orthographic processing. These results confirm the differential involvement of right and left putamen in different language components, thus highlighting the need for further research into the role of putamen in language.

Keywords: Coactivation; Language; Meta-analytic connectivity modeling; Putamen.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Language*
  • Models, Neurological*
  • Neural Pathways / physiology*
  • Putamen / anatomy & histology
  • Putamen / physiology*