Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience
Changes in brain activity characterizing impaired speech production after brain damage have usually been investigated by comparing aphasic speakers with healthy subjects because prestroke data are normally not available. However, when interpreting the results of studies of stroke patients versus healthy controls, there is an inherent difficulty in disentangling the contribution of neuropathology from other sources of between-subject variability. In the present work, we had an unusual opportunity to study an aphasic patient with severe anomia who had incidentally performed a picture naming task in an ERP study as a control subject one year before suffering a left hemisphere stroke. The fortuitous recording of this patient's brain activity before his stroke allows direct comparison of his pre- and poststroke brain activity in the same language production task. The subject did not differ from other healthy subjects before his stroke, but presented major electrophysiological differences after stroke, both in comparison to himself before stroke and to the control group. ERP changes consistently appeared after stroke in a specific time window starting about 250 msec after picture onset, characterized by a single divergent but stable topographic configuration of the scalp electric field associated with a cortical generator abnormally limited to left temporal posterior perilesional areas. The patient's pattern of anomia revealed a severe lexical–phonological impairment and his ERP responses diverged from those of healthy controls in the time window that has previously been associated with lexical–phonological processes during picture naming. Given that his prestroke ERPs were indistinguishable from those of healthy controls, it seems highly likely that the change in his poststroke ERPs is due to changes in language production processes as a consequence of stroke. The patient's neurolinguistic deficits, combined with the ERPs results, provide unique evidence for the role of left temporal cortex in lexical–phonological processing from about 250 to 450 msec during word production.