Neural correlates of processing passive sentences

Jennifer E. Mack, Aya Meltzer-Asscher, Elena Barbieri, Cynthia K Thompson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


Previous research has shown that comprehension of complex sentences involving wh-movement (e.g,object-relative clauses) elicits activation in the left inferior frontal gyrus (IFG) and left posterior temporal cortex. However, relatively little is known about the neural correlates of processing passive sentences, which differ from other complex sentences in terms of representation (i.e,noun phrase (NP)-movement) and processing (i.e,the time course of syntactic reanalysis). In the present study, 27 adults (14 younger and 13 older) listened to passive and active sentences and performed a sentence-picture verification task using functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI). Passive sentences, relative to active sentences, elicited greater activation in bilateral IFG and left temporo-occipital regions. Participant age did not significantly affect patterns of activation. Consistent with previous research, activation in left temporo-occipital cortex likely reflects thematic reanalysis processes, whereas, activation in the left IFG supports processing of complex syntax (i.e,NP-movement). Right IFG activation may reflect syntactic reanalysis processing demands associated with the sentence-picture verification task.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1198-1214
Number of pages17
JournalBrain Sciences
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jan 1 2013


  • Sentence processing
  • Syntactic processing
  • Thematic processing
  • fMRI

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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