Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience
We used fMRI to investigate the roles played by perilesional and contralesional cortical regions during language production in stroke patients with chronic aphasia. We applied comprehensive psycholinguistic analyses based on well-established models of lexical access to overt picture-naming responses which were evaluated using a single trial design that permitted distinction between correct and incorrect responses on a trial-by-trial basis. Although both correct and incorrect naming responses were associated with left-sided perilesional activation, incorrect responses were selectively associated with robust right-sided contralesional activity. Most notably, incorrect responses elicited overactivation in the right inferior frontal gyrus that was not observed in the contrasts for patients' correct responses or for responses of age-matched control subjects. Errors were produced at slightly later onsets than accurate responses and comprised predominantly semantic paraphasias and omissions. Both types of errors were induced by pictures with greater numbers of alternative names, and omissions were also induced by pictures with late acquired names. These two factors, number of alternative names per picture and age of acquisition, were positively correlated with activation in left and right inferior frontal gyri in patients as well as control subjects. These results support the hypothesis that some right frontal activation may normally be associated with increasing naming difficulty, but in patients with aphasia, right frontal overactivation may reflect ineffective effort when left hemisphere perilesional resources are insufficient. They also suggest that contralesional areas continue to play a role—dysfunctional rather than compensatory—in chronic aphasic patients who have experienced a significant degree of recovery.