Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience
We describe a study where a specific treatment method for word-finding difficulty (so-called contextual priming technique, which combines massive repetition priming with semantic priming) was applied with three chronic left hemisphere-damaged aphasics. Both before and after treatment, which focused on naming of a series of pictures, naming-related brain activity was measured by magnetoencephalography (MEG). Due to its excellent temporal resolution and good spatial resolution, we were able to track treatment-induced changes in cortical activity. All three subjects showed improved naming of the trained items. In all subjects, a single source area, located in the left inferior parietal lobe, close to the lesioned area, displayed statistically significant training-induced changes. This effect was of long latency as it started 300–600 msec after picture presentation. The change in activation was specific to training, as it could not be accounted for by variation of cortical dynamics associated with increased proportion of correct answers. Our interpretation is that the training effect reflects more effective phonological encoding and storage of the trained items through the engagement of a left hemispheric word-learning system. This is in line with recent functional imaging studies, which have linked left inferior parietal lobe activity to the phonological storage component of the verbal working memory, as well as with theoretical arguments stating that the primary role of the phonological loop is to acquire new words. Finally, the MEG results showed no evidence of increased right hemisphere participation following training, supporting the view that restoration of language-related networks in the damaged left hemisphere is crucial for anomia recovery.