Increased activation of the hippocampus during a Chinese character subvocalization task in adults with cleft lip and palate palatoplasty and speech therapy

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This study aimed to explore brain activation in patients with cleft lip and palate (CLP) using a Chinese character subvocalization task, in which the stimuli were selected from a clinical articulation evaluation test. CLP is a congenital disability. Individuals with CLP usually have articulation disorder caused by abnormal lip and palate structure. Previous studies showed that primary somatosensory and motor areas had a significant difference in activation in patients with CLP. However, whether brain activation was restored to a normal level after palatoplasty and speech rehabilitation is not clear. Two groups, adults after palatoplasty with speech training and age-matched and sex-matched controls, participated in this study. Brain activation during Chinese character subvocalization task and behavioral data were recorded using functional MRI. Patients with CLP responded to the target significantly more slowly compared with the controls, whereas no significant difference in accuracy was found between the groups. Brain activation had similar patterns between groups. Broca’s area, Wernicke’s area, motor areas, somatosensory areas, and insula in both hemispheres, and the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and the ventrolateral prefrontal cortex in the right hemisphere were activated in both groups, with no statistically significant difference. Furthermore, the two-sample t-test showed that the hippocampus in the left hemisphere was activated significantly in patients with CLP compared with the controls. The results suggested that the hippocampus might be involved in the language-related neural circuit in patients with CLP and play a role of pronunciation retrieval to help patients with CLP to complete the pronunciation effectively.

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