fMRI activation in the middle frontal gyrus as an indicator of hemispheric dominance for language in brain tumor patients: a comparison with Broca’s area

Functional imaging

Neuroradiology (2016) 58:513–520

Functional MRI (fMRI) can assess language lateralization in brain tumor patients; however, this can be limited if the primary language area—Broca’s area (BA)—is affected by the tumor. We hypothesized that the middle frontal gyrus (MFG) can be used as a clinical indicator of hemispheric dominance for language during presurgical workup.

Methods: Fifty-two right-handed subjects with solitary left hemispheric primary brain tumors were retrospectively studied. Subjects performed a verbal fluency task during fMRI. The MFG was compared to BA for fMRI voxel activation, language laterality index (LI), and the effect of tumor grade on the LI.

Results: Language fMRI (verbal fluency) activated more voxels in MFG than in BA (MFG=315, BA=216, p<0.001). Voxel activations in the left-hemispheric MFG and BA were positively correlated (r = 0.69, p < 0.001). Mean LI in the MFG was comparable to that in BA (MFG = 0.48, BA = 0.39, p = 0.06). LIs in MFG and BA were positively correlated (r = 0.62, p < 0.001). Subjects with high- grade tumors demonstrate lower language lateralization than those with low-grade tumors in both BA and MFG (p = 0.02, p = 0.02, respectively).

Conclusion: MFG is comparable to BA in its ability to indicate hemispheric dominance for language using a measure of verbal fluency and may be an adjunct measure in the clinical determination of language laterality for presurgical planning.