Individual variability in verbal fluency correlates with γ-aminobutyric acid concentration in the left inferior frontal gyrus

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A particular feature of the inferior frontal gyrus (IFG), which is considered a central region for language processing, is leftward functional/anatomical asymmetry. However, previous studies have not clearly shown lateralization of neurotransmitters in the cortical regions. Using proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy, we measured γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA) concentrations in the bilateral IFG. To evaluate individual variability in linguistic performance, we further used a verbal fluency test. Although GABA+/creatine (Cr) values were not different between the left and the right IFG, we found a significant correlation between category fluency scores and GABA+/Cr values in the left IFG. No correlation was found between letter fluency scores and GABA+/Cr values. We also confirmed that the result was independent of the references used (Cr and H2O). Our results show a new physiological basis of linguistic performance as well as leftward asymmetry of the IFG.

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