fMRI shows that “read“ and “heard” language processed differently by brain

The brain processes “read” and “heard“ language differently. This is the key and new finding of a study carried out at the University Department of Radiology and Nuclear Medicine at the MedUni Vienna (Kollndorfer K et al. Attention shifts the language network reflecting paradigm presentation. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 2013; 7 DOI 10.3389 ). The researchers were able to determine the affected areas of the brain using speech processing tests with the aid of functional magnetic resonance tomography (fMRT). In the study, the healthy test subjects were played simple nouns via headphones or shown them on a screen. They then had to form matching verbs from them. Says Kolindorfer: “Depending on whether the words were heard or seen, the neurons fired at different locations in the network.”

The results of the study also offer the field of radiology new opportunities for the pre-operative determination of areas that need to be protected during neurosurgical procedures — for example the removal of brain tumors — in order to maintain certain abilities. With regard to the speech processing parts of the brain in particular, individual mapping is especially important since individuals differ in terms of the location of their speech processing centres. “This also gives radiologists a tool with which they can decide whether it makes more sense during testing to present the words in visual or audible form” said Kathrin Kolindorfer lead researcher .

“Our results therefore show that the precise and personalized planning of radiological investigations is of tremendous importance,” says the author. Following this investigation, the best proposed solution is then drawn up within the multidisciplinary team meetings with the patient.