Jean-François DÉMONET & Samuel PLANTON (Université de Lausanne / INSERM Toulouse)
Language and the brain : twenty years of functional brain imaging
2012, Vol. XVII-2, pp. 9-18
The immense amount of brain imaging data that have accumulated over the 20 past years relating to language functions and brain activities/structures now make it possible to realize meta-analyses so that main trends of structure-function relationships can be outlined. While the bedrock of knowledge built upon the early studies of aphasia has not been disproven by brain imaging studies, the latter yielded refined insights on the functions of some specific parts of the cortical regions that support language abilities such as the main structure involved in speech production and comprehension, reading, or those supporting phonological, lexical semantic and syntactical processes. However, technical limitations of brain imaging, especially its relatively bad signal-to-noise ratio, as well as the number of factors, amongst which unknown ones, that account for the inter-individual variability in neural responses to a given task or stimulus type, make analyses at the individual level still a challenge. It may be that the quest of brain images of language will remain an infinite one just as the study of language itself.