Left putaminal activation when speaking a second language: evidence from PET

Neuroreport. 1994 Nov 21;5(17):2295-7. doi: 10.1097/00001756-199411000-00022.


The neural representation of the languages of the polyglot speaker has been highly controversial. We used positron emission tomography (PET) to investigate whether production in a second language (L2) involves the same neural substrates as that of a first language (L1) in normal bilingual subjects who learned L2 after the age of 5 years. Comparison of cerebral blood flow (CBF) when repeating words in L2 and repeating words in L1 yielded only a single significant CBF change: an increase in the left putamen. We hypothesize that this region plays a specific role for articulation in L2. The role of the putamen in articulation is supported by foreign accent syndrome (FAS), which can occur after left putaminal damage. The increased articulatory demands imposed by speaking a second language may require complex motor control for speech production in L2.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Functional Laterality
  • Humans
  • Language*
  • Male
  • Putamen / diagnostic imaging*
  • Putamen / physiology*
  • Speech / physiology*
  • Speech Perception / physiology
  • Tomography, Emission-Computed*