Intra-cranial recordings of brain activity during language production


  • Llorens Anaïs
  • Trébuchon Agnès
  • Liégeois-Chauvel Catherine
  • Alario F-Xavier


  • Electrocorticography
  • Intra-cranial recording
  • Lexical access
  • Phonological encoding
  • Articulation
  • Speech
  • Gamma band activity

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Recent findings in the neurophysiology of language production have provided a detailed description of the brain network underlying this behavior, as well as some indications about the timing of operations. Despite their invaluable utility, these data generally suffer from limitations either in terms of temporal resolution, or in terms of spatial localization. In addition, studying the neural basis of speech is complicated by the presence of articulation artifacts such as electro-myographic activity that interferes with the neural signal. These difficulties are virtually absent in a powerful albeit much less frequent methodology, namely the recording of intra-cranial brain activity (intra-cranial electroencephalography). Such recordings are only possible under very specific clinical circumstances requiring functional mapping before brain surgery, most notably in patients that suffer from pharmaco-resistant epilepsy. Here we review the research conducted with this methodology in the field of language production, with explicit consideration of its advantages and drawbacks. The available evidence is shown to be diverse, both in terms of the tasks and the cognitive processes tested and in terms of the brain localizations being studied. Still, the review provides valuable information for characterizing the dynamics of the neural events occurring in the language production network. Following modality specific activities (in auditory or visual cortices), there is a convergence of activity in superior temporal sulcus, which is a plausible neural correlate of phonological encoding processes. Later, between 500 and 800 ms, inferior frontal gyrus (around Broca's area) is involved. Peri-rolandic areas are recruited in the two modalities relatively early (200-500 ms window), suggesting a very early involvement of (pre-) motor processes. We discuss how some of these findings may be at odds with conclusions drawn from available meta-analysis of language production studies.

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