Connectivity of the hippocampus and Broca's area during acquisition of a novel grammar

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Following Opitz and Friederici (2003) suggesting interactions of the hippocampal system and the prefrontal cortex as the neural mechanism underlying novel grammar learning, the present fMRI study investigated functional connectivity of bilateral BA 44/45 and the hippocampus during an artificial grammar learning (AGL) task. Our results, contrary to the previously reported interactions, demonstrated parallel (but separate) contributions of both regions, each with their own interactions, to the process of novel grammar acquisition. The functional connectivity pattern of Broca's area pointed to the importance of coherent activity of left frontal areas around the core language processing region for successful grammar learning. Furthermore, connectivity patterns of left and right hippocampi (predominantly with occipital areas) were found to be a strong predictor of high performance on the task. Finally, increasing functional connectivity over time of both left and right BA 44/45 with the right posterior cingulate cortex and the right temporo-parietal areas points to the importance of multimodal and attentional processes supporting novel grammar acquisition. Moreover, it highlights the right-hemispheric involvement in initial stages of L2 learning. These latter interactions were found to operate irrespective of the task performance, making them an obligatory mechanism accompanying novel grammar learning.HighlightsWe investigate functional connectivity during an artificial grammar learning task.Grammar learning previously suggested to rest on hippocampal–prefrontal interactions.Functional connectivity of BA 44/45 and hippocampus (bilaterally) is reported.The results demonstrate parallel (but separate) contributions of the regions.

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