Network modulation during complex syntactic processing

Dirk-Bart den Ouden, Dorothee Saur, Wolfgang Mader, Bjoern Schelter, Sladjana Lukic, Eisha Wali, Jens Timmer, Cynthia K. Thompson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

82 Citations (Scopus)


Complex sentence processing is supported by a left-lateralized neural network including inferior frontal cortex and posterior superior temporal cortex. This study investigates the pattern of connectivity and information flow within this network. We used fMRI BOLD data derived from 12 healthy participants reported in an earlier study (Thompson, C. K., Den Ouden, D. B., Bonakdarpour, B., Garibaldi, K., & Parrish, T. B. (2010b). Neural plasticity and treatment-induced recovery of sentence processing in agrammatism. Neuropsychologia, 48(11), 3211-3227) to identify activation peaks associated with object-cleft over syntactically less complex subject-cleft processing. Directed Partial Correlation Analysis was conducted on time series extracted from participant-specific activation peaks and showed evidence of functional connectivity between four regions, linearly between premotor cortex, inferior frontal gyrus, posterior superior temporal sulcus and anterior middle temporal gyrus. This pattern served as the basis for Dynamic Causal Modeling of networks with a driving input to posterior superior temporal cortex, which likely supports thematic role assignment, and networks with a driving input to inferior frontal cortex, a core region associated with syntactic computation. The optimal model was determined through both frequentist and Bayesian Model Selection and turned out to reflect a network with a primary drive from inferior frontal cortex and modulation of the connection between inferior frontal cortex and posterior superior temporal cortex by complex sentence processing. The winning model also showed a substantive role for a feedback mechanism from posterior superior temporal cortex back to inferior frontal cortex. We suggest that complex syntactic processing is driven by word-order analysis, supported by inferior frontal cortex, in an interactive relation with posterior superior temporal cortex, which supports verb argument structure processing. (C) 2012 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)815-823
Number of pages9
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jan 2012


  • neural mechanisms of syntactic processing
  • connectivity
  • network modeling
  • fMRI
  • interior frontal gyrus
  • superior temporal gyrus


Dive into the research topics of 'Network modulation during complex syntactic processing'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this