Localizing components of a complex task: sentence processing and working memory

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THREE areas of the left hemisphere play different roles in sentence comprehension. An area of posterior middle and superior temporal gyrus shows activation correlated with the structural complexity of a sentence, suggesting that this area supports processing of sentence structure. The lateral anterior temporal gyrus is more activated bilaterally by all sentence conditions than by word lists; thus the function of the area probably does not directly support processing of structure but rather processing of words specific to a sentence context. Left inferior frontal cortex also shows activation related to sentence complexity but is also more activated in word list processing than in simple sentences; this region may thus support a form of verbal working memory which maintains sentence structural information as well as lexical items.

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