A preliminary fMRI study of a novel self-paced written fluency task: Observation of left-hemispheric activation, and increased frontal activation in late vs. early task phases

Laleh Golestanirad*, Sunit Das, Tom A. Schweizer, Simon J. Graham

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations

Abstract

Neuropsychological tests of verbal fluency are very widely used to characterize impaired cognitive function. For clinical neuroscience studies and potential medical applications, measuring the brain activity that underlies such tests with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) is of significant interest—but a challenging proposition because overt speech can cause signal artifacts, which tend to worsen as the duration of speech tasks becomes longer. In a novel approach, we present the group brain activity of 12 subjects who performed a self-paced written version of phonemic fluency using fMRI-compatible tablet technology that recorded responses and provided task-related feedback on a projection screen display, over long-duration task blocks (60 s). As predicted, we observed robust activation in the left anterior inferior and medial frontal gyri, consistent with previously reported results of verbal fluency tasks which established the role of these areas in strategic word retrieval. In addition, the number of words produced in the late phase (last 30 s) of written phonemic fluency was significantly less (p < 0.05) than the number produced in the early phase (first 30 s). Activation during the late phase vs. the early phase was also assessed from the first 20 s and last 20 s of task performance, which eliminated the possibility that the sluggish hemodynamic response from the early phase would affect the activation estimates of the late phase. The last 20 s produced greater activation maps covering extended areas in bilateral precuneus, cuneus, middle temporal gyrus, insula, middle frontal gyrus and cingulate gyrus. Among these areas, greater activation was observed in the bilateral middle frontal gyrus (Brodmann area BA 9) and cingulate gyrus (BA 24, 32) likely as part of the initiation, maintenance, and shifting of attentional resources. Consistent with previous pertinent fMRI literature involving overt and covert verbal responses, these findings highlight the promise and practicality of fMRI of written phonemic fluency.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number113
JournalFrontiers in Human Neuroscience
Volume9
Issue numberMAR
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 10 2015

Keywords

  • Language
  • Phonemic fluency
  • Tablet
  • Verbal fluency
  • Writing
  • fMRI

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Neurology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry
  • Behavioral Neuroscience

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