Monday, July 12, 2010

The Role of Broca's Area in Sentence Comprehension

After first being rejected as an invited paper at Frontiers and then suffering through a somewhat contentious second set of reviews, a critical review paper on the role of Broca's area in sentence comprehension by Corianne Rogalsky and yours truly will finally see the light of day in the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience.

What makes the paper so controversial? Basically we argue, despite the claims of Grodzinsky, Friederici, and colleagues, that there is no evidence for Broca's area playing any specific role in syntactic and/or basic hierarchical processing during sentence comprehension. Rather, posterior sectors of Broca's area (pars opercularis) seems to support sentence comprehension indirectly via articulatory rehearsal and more anterior sectors appear to be playing some higher-order process (there are several proposals on the table).

Have a look at let us know what you think. Abstract below.

The role of Broca's area in sentence processing has been debated for the last 30 years. A central and still unresolved issue is whether Broca's area plays a specific role in some aspect of syntactic processing (e.g., syntactic movement, hierarchical structure building) or whether it serves a more general function on which sentence processing relies (e.g., working memory). This review examines the functional organization of Broca's area in regard to its contributions to sentence comprehension, verbal working memory, and other multimodal cognitive processes. We suggest that the data are consistent with the view that at least a portion of the contribution of Broca's area to sentence comprehension can be attributed to its role as a phonological short-term memory resource. Furthermore, our review leads us to conclude that there is no compelling evidence that there are sentence-specific processing regions within Broca's area.

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