Regional and hemispheric determinants of language laterality: Implications for preoperative fMRI

Mohamed L. Seghier, Ferath Kherif, Goulven Josse, Cathy J. Price

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Scopus citations


Language is typically a function of the left hemisphere but the right hemisphere is also essential in some healthy individuals and patients. This inter-subject variability necessitates the localization of language function, at the individual level, prior to neurosurgical intervention. Such assessments are typically made by comparing left and right hemisphere language function to determine "language lateralization" using clinical tests or fMRI. Here, we show that language function needs to be assessed at the region and hemisphere specific level, because laterality measures can be misleading. Using fMRI data from 82 healthy participants, we investigated the degree to which activation for a semantic word matching task was lateralized in 50 different brain regions and across the entire cortex. This revealed two novel findings. First, the degree to which language is lateralized across brain regions and between subjects was primarily driven by differences in right hemisphere activation rather than differences in left hemisphere activation. Second, we found that healthy subjects who have relatively high left lateralization in the angular gyrus also have relatively low left lateralization in the ventral precentral gyrus. These findings illustrate spatial heterogeneity in language lateralization that is lost when global laterality measures are considered. It is likely that the complex spatial variability we observed in healthy controls is more exaggerated in patients with brain damage. We therefore highlight the importance of investigating within hemisphere regional variations in fMRI activation, prior to neuro-surgical intervention, to determine how each hemisphere and each region contributes to language processing.

Original languageBritish English
Pages (from-to)1602-1614
Number of pages13
JournalHuman Brain Mapping
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2011


  • Functional MRI
  • Inter-hemispheric dissociation
  • Language
  • Laterality index
  • Laterality maps
  • Left and right hemisphere activity
  • Semantic processing


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