Evaluating syntactic comprehension during awake intraoperative cortical stimulation mapping

J Neurosurg 138:1403–1410, 2023

Electrocortical stimulation mapping (ECS) is widely used to identify essential language areas, but sentence-level processing has rarely been investigated.

METHODS While undergoing awake surgery in the dominant left hemisphere, 6 subjects were asked to comprehend sentences varying in their demands on syntactic processing.

RESULTS In all 6 subjects, stimulation of the inferior frontal gyrus disrupted comprehension of passive sentences, which critically depend on syntactic processing to correctly assign grammatical roles, without disrupting comprehension of simpler tasks. In 4 of the 6 subjects, these sites were localized to the pars opercularis. Sentence comprehension was also disrupted by stimulation of other perisylvian sites, but in a more variable manner.

CONCLUSIONS These findings suggest that there may be language regions that differentially contribute to sentence processing and which therefore are best identified using sentence-level tasks. The functional consequences of resecting these sites remain to be investigated.