Ventral and dorsal pathways for language

Dorothee Saura*, Björn W. Kreher, Susanne Schnell, Dorothee Kümmerera, Philipp Kellmeyera, Magnus Sebastian Vrya, Roza Umarova, Mariacristina Musso, Volkmar Glauche, Stefanie Abel, Walter Huber, Michel Rijntjes, Jürgen Hennig, Cornelius Weiller

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1180 Scopus citations


Built on an analogy between the visual and auditory systems, the following dual stream model for language processing was suggested recently: a dorsal stream is involved in mapping sound to articulation, and a ventral stream in mapping sound to meaning. The goal of the study presented here was to test the neuroanatomical basis of this model. Combining functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) with a novel diffusion tensor imaging (DTI)-based tractography method we were able to identify the most probable anatomical pathways connecting brain regions activated during two prototypical language tasks. Sublexical repetition of speech is subserved by a dorsal pathway, connecting the superior temporal lobe and premotor cortices in the frontal lobe via the arcuate and superior longitudinal fascicle. In contrast, higher-level language comprehension is mediated by a ventral pathway connecting the middle temporal lobe and the ventrolateral prefrontal cortex via the extreme capsule. Thus, according to our findings, the function of the dorsal route, traditionally considered to be the major language pathway, is mainly restricted to sensory-motor mapping of sound to articulation, whereas linguistic processing of sound to meaning requires temporofrontal interaction transmitted via the ventral route.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)18035-18040
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number46
StatePublished - Nov 18 2008


  • Arcuate fascicle
  • DTI
  • Extreme capsule
  • Language networks
  • fMRI

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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