Stimulus rate increases lateralisation in linguistic and non-linguistic tasks measured by functional transcranial Doppler sonography

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Abstract

Studies to date that have used fTCD to examine language lateralisation have predominantly used word or sentence generation tasks. Here we sought to further assess the sensitivity of fTCD to language lateralisation by using a metalinguistic task which does not involve novel speech generation: rhyme judgement in response to written words. Line array judgement was included as a non-linguistic visuospatial task to examine the relative strength of left and right hemisphere lateralisation within the same individuals when output requirements of the tasks are matched. These externally paced tasks allowed us to manipulate the number of stimuli presented to participants and thus assess the influence of pace on the strength of lateralisation.

In Experiment 1, 28 right-handed adults participated in rhyme and line array judgement tasks and showed reliable left and right lateralisation at the group level for each task, respectively. In Experiment 2 we increased the pace of the tasks, presenting more stimuli per trial. We measured laterality indices (LIs) from 18 participants who performed both linguistic and non-linguistic judgement tasks during the original ‘slow’ presentation rate (5 judgements per trial) and a fast presentation rate (10 judgements per trial). The increase in pace led to increased strength of lateralisation in both the rhyme and line conditions.

Our results demonstrate for the first time that fTCD is sensitive to the left lateralised processes involved in metalinguistic judgements. Our data also suggest that changes in the strength of language lateralisation, as measured by fTCD, are not driven by articulatory demands alone. The current results suggest that at least one aspect of task difficulty, the pace of stimulus presentation, influences the strength of lateralisation during both linguistic and non-linguistic tasks.

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