Dissociating the functional roles of arcuate fasciculus subtracts in speech production.
Janssen N., Kessels RPC., Mars RB., Llera A., Beckmann CF., Roelofs A.
Recent tractography and microdissection studies have shown that the left arcuate fasciculus (AF)-a fiber tract thought to be crucial for speech production-consists of a minimum of 2 subtracts directly connecting the temporal and frontal cortex. These subtracts link the posterior superior temporal gyrus (STG) and middle temporal gyrus (MTG) to the inferior frontal gyrus. Although they have been hypothesized to mediate different functions in speech production, direct evidence for this hypothesis is lacking. To functionally segregate the 2 AF segments, we combined functional magnetic resonance imaging with diffusion-weighted imaging and probabilistic tractography using 2 prototypical speech production tasks, namely spoken pseudoword repetition (tapping sublexical phonological mapping) and verb generation (tapping lexical-semantic mapping). We observed that the repetition of spoken pseudowords is mediated by the subtract of STG, while generating an appropriate verb to a spoken noun is mediated by the subtract of MTG. Our findings provide strong evidence for a functional dissociation between the AF subtracts, namely a sublexical phonological mapping by the STG subtract and a lexical-semantic mapping by the MTG subtract. Our results contribute to the unraveling of a century-old controversy concerning the functional role in speech production of a major fiber tract involved in language.