Network connectivity predicts language processing in healthy adults

Hum Brain Mapp. 2020 Sep;41(13):3696-3708. doi: 10.1002/hbm.25042. Epub 2020 May 25.


Brain imaging has been used to predict language skills during development and neuropathology but its accuracy in predicting language performance in healthy adults has been poorly investigated. To address this shortcoming, we studied the ability to predict reading accuracy and single-word comprehension scores from rest- and task-based functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) datasets of 424 healthy adults. Using connectome-based predictive modeling, we identified functional brain networks with >400 edges that predicted language scores and were reproducible in independent data sets. To simplify these complex models we identified the overlapping edges derived from the three task-fMRI sessions (language, working memory, and motor tasks), and found 12 edges for reading recognition and 11 edges for vocabulary comprehension that accounted for 20% of the variance of these scores, both in the training sample and in the independent sample. The overlapping edges predominantly emanated from language areas within the frontoparietal and default-mode networks, with a strong precuneus prominence. These findings identify a small subset of edges that accounted for a significant fraction of the variance in language performance that might serve as neuromarkers for neuromodulation interventions to improve language performance or for presurgical planning to minimize language impairments.

Keywords: brain-behavior prediction; cognition; connectome-based predictive modeling; default mode network; feature selection; language; motion; precuneus.