The Role of Glutamate in Language and Language Disorders - Evidence from ERP and Pharmacologic Studies

Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2020 Dec:119:217-241. doi: 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2020.09.023. Epub 2020 Oct 9.


Current models of language processing do not address mechanisms at the neurotransmitter level, nor how pharmacologic agents may improve language function(s) in seemingly disparate disorders. L-Glutamate, the primary excitatory neurotransmitter in the human brain, is extensively involved in various higher cortical functions. We postulate that the physiologic role of L-Glutamate neurotransmission extends to the regulation of language access, comprehension, and production, and that disorders in glutamatergic transmission and circuitry contribute to the pathogenesis of neurodegenerative diseases and sporadic-onset language disorders such as the aphasic stroke syndromes. We start with a review of basic science data pertaining to various glutamate receptors in the CNS and ways that they may influence the physiological processes of language access and comprehension. We then focus on the dysregulation of glutamate neurotransmission in three conditions in which language dysfunction is prominent: Alzheimer's Disease, Fragile X-associated Tremor/Ataxia Syndrome, and Aphasic Stroke Syndromes. Finally, we review the pharmacologic and electrophysiologic (event related brain potential or ERP) data pertaining to the role glutamate neurotransmission plays in language processing and disorders.

Keywords: Alzheimer's Disease; Event-Related Potentials; Fragile X-associated Tremor/Ataxia Syndrome; Glutamate Neurotransmission; Language; Pharmacology; Stroke Aphasia.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aphasia*
  • Fragile X Syndrome*
  • Glutamic Acid
  • Humans
  • Language
  • Tremor


  • Glutamic Acid