This post is written by PhD student Sigfus Kristinsson. Sigfus recently had a paper accepted by the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience about how the brain understands different types of sentences. Below is a preliminary summary of the article, which will be published soon. Check back for a link to the article!

Brain Damage Associated with Impaired Sentence Processing in Acute Aphasia 

Functional communication in everyday life greatly relies on syntax, i.e. how words within a sentence relate to one another. As an example, syntax allows us to infer who is the receiver of the action and who performs the action in these sentences: “the girl chased the boy” and “the girl was chased by the boy”, regardless of the order in which the girl and boy are mentioned. This process happens automatically in the developed brain, but syntactic processing is often compromised following brain injury. The brain areas crucial for carrying out this process have been debated for decades.

The aim of this study was to explore brain areas crucial for understanding complex sentences. We recruited 104 participants within 20 days of their stroke. Participants performed a task in which they heard sentences of varying complexity and were required to choose a picture representing each sentence. All participants underwent brain imaging to enable investigation into the brain mechanisms underlying their performance on the task. Our primary findings suggest that posterior temporal brain areas are important for sentence comprehension, while frontal brain areas may provide some additional support.

For those who have read the article and would like to view the supplemental material, please follow this link: supplementary-material