What is it about?

In this large-scale neuroimaging meta-analysis, we investigated which areas in the human brain are consistently active when we process language on a general level (all tasks involving speech and language). We also tested which brain areas are specifically involved when we process just its meaning (semantics), the grammatical structure of sentences (syntax), speech sounds and syllables (phonology) and tonal, rhythmic and melodic patterns of sentences (prosody). To do so, we collected the findings of 403 studies that had young, healthy adults perform these tasks during neuroimaging, and performed a meta-analysis to figure out the effects that are really robust across this large number of studies. In addition, we explored how the often-neglected cerebellum and subcortical regions are involved during the performance of the same tasks. Overall, we report a robust, general language network including largely left-hemispheric areas in the brain but also brain regions that are crucial for certain tasks (e.g., just meaning processing). Moreover, we emphasize that the cerebellum is very important for sound-related and meaning-related tasks and should thus be included in future models on the neurobiology of language.

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Why is it important?

The present work is the largest meta-analysis on language processing conducted so far and the first that compares brain activation across several language subdomains (semantics, phonology, prosody, syntax). Moreover, it is the first meta-analysis on language that pays attention to the roles of the cerebellum and subcortical brain regions across the various subdomains and for language processing in general. The findings are important to develop new and more comprehensive models on language processing in the human brain and to better understand brain lesions affecting speech and language.


I am extremely excited that we can finally share this large meta-analysis of neuroimaging studies on language. This is the result of hard work and perseverance over the course of 6 years! I'm very proud to be part of this with a fantastic team.

Philipp Kuhnke
Universitat Leipzig

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Cortical, subcortical, and cerebellar contributions to language processing: A meta-analytic review of 403 neuroimaging experiments., Psychological Bulletin, September 2023, American Psychological Association (APA),
DOI: 10.1037/bul0000403.
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