Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience
March 2018, Vol. 30, No. 3, Pages 411-420
© 2018 Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Selective Interference with Syntactic Encoding during Sentence Production by Direct Electrocortical Stimulation of the Inferior Frontal Gyrus
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Cortical stimulation mapping (CSM) has provided important insights into the neuroanatomy of language because of its high spatial and temporal resolution, and the causal relationships that can be inferred from transient disruption of specific functions. Almost all CSM studies to date have focused on word-level processes such as naming, comprehension, and repetition. In this study, we used CSM to identify sites where stimulation interfered selectively with syntactic encoding during sentence production. Fourteen patients undergoing left-hemisphere neurosurgery participated in the study. In 7 of the 14 patients, we identified nine sites where cortical stimulation interfered with syntactic encoding but did not interfere with single word processing. All nine sites were localized to the inferior frontal gyrus, mostly to the pars triangularis and opercularis. Interference with syntactic encoding took several different forms, including misassignment of arguments to grammatical roles, misassignment of nouns to verb slots, omission of function words and inflectional morphology, and various paragrammatic constructions. Our findings suggest that the left inferior frontal gyrus plays an important role in the encoding of syntactic structure during sentence production.